A Preference for Revision Absent Objective Improvement

53 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2019 Last revised: 15 Feb 2022

See all articles by Ximena Garcia-Rada

Ximena Garcia-Rada

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Leslie K. John

Harvard Business School

Ed O'Brien

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: February 1, 2022

Abstract

From downloading never-ending updates to tracking ever-newer releases, consumers today are surrounded by revised offerings that purport to have improved upon what was previously available. Although revising things often makes them better, the current research reveals that merely being told that a product has been revised makes consumers think it is better, even absent objective improvement. Eleven studies document this effect and its psychological underpinnings. Study 1 establishes the basic effect: Consumers are swayed to choose an inferior product when they think it is a revised version. Studies 2A-2C replicate this effect across many products and marketing contexts. Studies 3-6 show that this “revised-is-better” heuristic lowers consumers’ efforts to scrutinize a revised product, thus explaining the effect (Study 3), and therefore are especially susceptible to the effect under conditions that recruit intuitive judgment (Study 4, facing time pressure; Study 5, lacking diagnostic product information; Study 6, lacking product expertise). Studies 7A-7C extend this effect to naturalistic settings among students working to improve something they revise regularly: their resumes. Together, these findings bridge and advance consumer research on expectancy effects and product change, revealing when, why, and how consumers risk being deceived by the “new and improved.”

Keywords: product change, versioning, expectancy effects, heuristics, intuitive processing

Suggested Citation

Garcia-Rada, Ximena and John, Leslie K. and O'Brien, Ed and Norton, Michael I., A Preference for Revision Absent Objective Improvement (February 1, 2022). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 19-087, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3329340 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3329340

Ximena Garcia-Rada

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

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

Leslie K. John (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

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

Ed O'Brien

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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