From Our 2010 Archives
Consumers Overestimate Ability to Master New Products: Study
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TUESDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Sure, that new gizmo you just bought looks simple enough, but a new study suggests that consumers frequently overestimate their ability to use a new product -- and then may quickly give up on mastering its use at all.
As reported online in the Journal of Consumer Research, a team at Brigham Young University and elsewhere had people perform a number of tasks that were new to them. Participants were first verbally taught how to do something, such as tracing a line with the aid of a mirror, typing on a strangely laid-out keyboard, or folding t-shirts in a novel manner.
Before actually performing the tasks the participants were asked to indicate how well they thought they would do. Following a short amount of actual practice, all were asked once again to predict their performance.
The authors found that while people's pre-performance opinions as to how adept they might be were overly optimistic, their post-performance opinions made a quick about-face. After trying the task, participants tended to become negative about both their long- and short-term prospects at mastering the task, with many being pessimistic that they would ever improve.
However, after a lengthier amount of practice -- equal to about 20 minutes of attempts -- opinions did start to trend back in a more positive vein, with participants feeling they could ultimately complete the task and becoming more accurate in predicting their skill levels.
"Much of parenting is about teaching children that persistence pays off -- that tasks which initially seem difficult become easier with practice," the team wrote. "The results of these studies suggest that, despite whatever lessons our parents might have sought to teach us, most of us have not fully learned the lesson."
The researchers, including George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, Darron Billeter, assistant professor of marketing business management at Brigham Young University, and Ajay Kalra, professor of marketing at Rice University, noted that prior research has suggested that consumers actually grow more attached to products the more they make use of them.
-- Alan Mozes
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SOURCE: Brigham Young University, news release, July 14, 2010