Special Session Summary the Role and Impact of External Recommendations in Decision Making

Gavan J. Fitzsimons, University of Pennsylvania
[ to cite ]:
Gavan J. Fitzsimons (2001) ,"Special Session Summary the Role and Impact of External Recommendations in Decision Making", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 255.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Page 255

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

THE ROLE AND IMPACT OF EXTERNAL RECOMMENDATIONS IN DECISION MAKING

Gavan J. Fitzsimons, University of Pennsylvania

People commonly use recommendations as a decision aid when choosing between multiple options in a choice set. Prior to the advent of the Internet recommendations mainly came from personal connections, from an employee at a physical store, or perhaps from an expert rating agency such as Consumer Reports. Regardless of the source of the recommendation, many consumers use them to help reduce the uncertainty surrounding a choice between similarly valued options. While recommendations clearly play an important role in many decision processes, previous research in the area has not adequately addressed many of the issues that present themselves in today’s consumer environment in which recommendations are incredibly prevalent (e.g., Wine Spectator ratings of wine displayed at your local wine retailer, book suggestions from Amazon when purchasing a book online, etc.). Recent research in the area answers interesting new questions, and has substantial import from theoretical, managerial and societal perspectives.

In the first paper presented, Diehl and Lynch explored aspects of the role of recommendations in online environments. While traditional wisdom would argue that online shopping provides benefits to consumers through a substantial expansion of choices, they argued that this enhanced assortment would only benefit consumers when accompanied by a particular form of recommendation. Specifically, they argued that the benefits of size and variety in an online assortment are a function of the correlation between the consumer’s utility function and the ordinal position in a list of alternatives recommended to the consumer. The second paper, presented by Zhou and Lehmann, looked at the role of unintended recommendations heard by overhearing another conversation. This idle chatter under certain conditions led to substantial changes in choice of the most desirable product in a category. They also demonstrated that idle chatter matters even in the face of fairly unambiguous attribute information. Finally, the third paper, by Fitzsimons and Lehmann, examined the unexpected impact of recommendations on choice in situations in which consumers actually demonstrate a backlash against the provided recommendation. In situations where experts recommend against an option that consumers believe should be a good one, choice of the option receiving the negative recommendation actually increased.

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