Prior Knowledge and Complacency in New Product Learning
40 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2002
Our research examines the role of prior knowledge in learning about really new products that make existing product knowledge obsolete. Those with higher prior knowledge incorrectly generalize from their knowledge of existing products in the same product market and assume that they already know most of what is necessary to use the new product properly. Three studies demonstrate that, compared to consumers with lower prior knowledge, those with higher prior knowledge learn less about a new product. Further, higher knowledge consumers are able to learn better but learn less due to motivational deficits. Study 1 shows that, when given a cue that the new product is truly different, those with higher prior knowledge learned more than those with lower prior knowledge. In Study 2, we demonstrate that inferior learning of new product information by those with higher prior knowledge is caused by inattention at encoding rather than to reconstructive errors at retrieval. When incentives for learning were provided after encoding but prior to retrieval, those with higher prior knowledge learned less than those with lower prior knowledge. The reverse was true when incentives were provided prior to encoding. We show that these results hold both when prior knowledge is manipulated experimentally (Studies 1 and 2) and when it is an individual difference factor (Study 3).
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