The Impact of Relative Standards on the Propensity to Disclose

Journal of Marketing Research, 49(2), 160--174, 2012

64 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2019 Last revised: 11 Jan 2019

See all articles by Alessandro Acquisti

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Leslie K. John

Harvard Business School

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Two sets of studies illustrate the comparative nature of disclosure behavior. The first set investigates how divulgence is affected by signals about others’ readiness to divulge and shows a “herding” effect: Survey respondents are more willing to divulge sensitive information when told that previous respondents have made sensitive disclosures (Study 1a). The authors provide evidence of the process underlying this effect and rule out alternative explanations by showing that information on others’ propensity to disclose affects respondents’ discomfort associated with divulgence (Study 1b) but not their interpretation of the questions (Study 1c). The second set of studies investigates how divulgence is affected by the order in which inquiries of varying intrusiveness are made and suggests that divulgence is anchored by the initial questions in a survey. People are particularly likely to divulge when questions are presented in decreasing order of intrusiveness and less likely when questions are presented in increasing order (Study 2a). The authors show that the effect arises by affecting people’s judgments of the intrusiveness of the inquiries (Study 2b). The effect is altered when, at the outset of the study, privacy concerns are primed (Study 2c) and when respondents are made to consider the relative intrusiveness of a different set of questions (Study 2d). This research helps illuminate how consumers’ propensity to disclose is affected by continual streams of requests for personal information and by the equally unavoidable barrage of personal information about others.

Keywords: survey design, self-disclosure, electronic commerce, privacy

Suggested Citation

Acquisti, Alessandro and John, Leslie K. and Loewenstein, George F., The Impact of Relative Standards on the Propensity to Disclose (2012). Journal of Marketing Research, 49(2), 160--174, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3305335

Alessandro Acquisti (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-9853 (Phone)
412-268-5339 (Fax)

Leslie K. John

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

George F. Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

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