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Safety First? The Role of Emotion in Safety Product Betrayal Aversion

Journal of Consumer Research, Inc., Forthcoming

Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 11-18

11 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2011  

Jonathan J. Koehler

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law

Andrew Gershoff

University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, Department of Marketing

Date Written: February 3, 2011

Abstract

Consumers often face decisions about whether to purchase products that are intended to protect them from possible harm. However, safety products rarely provide perfect protection and sometimes "betray" consumers by causing the very harm they are intended to prevent. Examples include vaccines that may cause disease and air bags that may explode with such force that they cause death. Expanding research on betrayal aversion, this study examines the role of emotions in consumers’ tendency to choose safety options that provide less overall protection in order to eliminate a very small probability of harm due to safety product betrayal. In five studies we find that betrayal aversion is reduced and safer alternatives are selected when factors that dampen the emotional response to potential betrayals are introduced or taken into account. These factors include changing the betrayal from an action to an omission (study 1), introducing positive imagery (study 2), introducing visual representations of risk (study 3), making the decision for another rather than oneself (study 4), and intuitive thinking style (study 5).

Keywords: Consumer protection, betrayal aversion

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Koehler, Jonathan J. and Gershoff, Andrew, Safety First? The Role of Emotion in Safety Product Betrayal Aversion (February 3, 2011). Journal of Consumer Research, Inc., Forthcoming; Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 11-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1755667 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1755667

Jonathan J. Koehler

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Andrew Gershoff (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, Department of Marketing ( email )

Austin, TX
United States

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