You Ought to Know: Why Consumers Think Companies Can Foresee Bad (but Not Good) Side Effects

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Psychology & Marketing

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Routine business activities often lead to unintended side effects. Prior research suggests that consumers ascribe greater corporate foreknowledge when side effects are harmful (vs. helpful) but offers a controversial explanation and insufficient exploration of its consequences. The current research fills these gaps, offering a heuristic-based explanation steeped in consumer behavior, while demonstrating the importance of this asymmetry to consumer response. First, a Pilot Study confirms the theoretical processes underlying our explanation. Study 1 tests the role of this foreknowledge asymmetry in predicting implicit bias toward the company. Studies 2 and 3 provide moderation evidence for our heuristic-based explanation and connect the phenomenon to motive inferences and blame judgments, respectively. In sum, this work provides a novel explanation for a common marketplace phenomenon while establishing its effects on several important consumer response variables.


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