Customers that suffered to get your product value it more than those that didn’t

I am (finally) reading the book Mistakes were made (but not by me) by Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson (affiliate link), which explores why people find it hard to accept responsibility for mistakes.

There is an interesting section in the book, where authors report on findings from psychological experiments that show that:

‘(I)f people go through a great deal of pain, discomfort, effort, or embarrassment to get something, they will be happier with that ‘something’ than if it came to them easily. (…) The cognition that I am a sensible, competent person is dissonant with the cognition that I went through a painful procedure to achieve something – say, joining a group that turned out to be boring and worthless. Therefore, I would distort my perceptions of the group in a positive direction, trying to find good things about them and ignoring the downside.’ (page 15)

IMG_6018Examples of this effect that sprang to my mind, as I was reading this section, include queuing for hours to buy a new product, enter a concert, or be admitted to a restaurant or bar. Or, for instance, going through a series of difficult tests to be admitted into a programme, organisation or group.

This effect also explains why we tend to value very highly things that we put a lot of effort in creating – for instance, assembling IKEA furniture, folding origami, or building Lego. We like those items (the IKEA table, the origami sculpture or the Lego construction) more when we built them than if somebody else did it.

The bottom line: customers that suffered to get your product value it more than those that didn’t.

But before you go mad with this idea, and decide to introduce challenging tests for your customers or move to a self-assembly model, take heed of this section in the same book:

‘(t)hese findings do not mean that people enjoy painful experiences, such as filling out income-tax forms, or that people enjoy things that are associated with pain. What they do show is that if a person voluntarily goes through a difficult or painful experience in order to attain some goal or object, that goal or object becomes more attractive.’ (page 17)

7 thoughts on “Customers that suffered to get your product value it more than those that didn’t

    1. Yes, indeed, in the sense that we may be unable to recover the time and energy that we invested in getting this product (i.e., it is a sunk cost), and that we (wrongly) tend to take sunk costs into consideration when evaluating how much a product is worth to us (as opposed to the net benefits going forward).

      But the principle that Travis and Aronson are talking about is ‘cognitive dissonance’ which refers to our attempt to reconcile two conflicting ideas: our past negative experience to acquire the product (the sunk cost) vs our current perception of the benefits of the product. As we can not change the former, we revise the latter.

      Thank you very much for stopping by, David.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s