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Negativity May Change Your Mind

Know a Harsh Critic? Their Negative Views May Skew Your Opinions, Marketing Study Suggests
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 5, 2007 -- Negativity may be catching among consumers, especially among those with a personal connection, a new study shows.

The researchers, who work at Indiana University, make three main points in their paper:

  • People tend to abandon their positive views of a new product when they find out that others dislike that product.
  • People become even more negative about a new product when they find out that people they were about to meet with dislike that product.
  • The flip side isn't true: Positive views aren't as persuasive.

"Usually negative information is seen as more diagnostic ... [It] assumes a deeper level of knowledge," Adam Duhachek, PhD, an assistant professor of marketing at Indiana University, tells WebMD.

Duhachek and colleagues studied 258 Indiana University undergraduate students. The students reviewed a new study guide.

Next, the students learned that most of their peers agreed or disagreed with their opinion about the study guide. Afterward, the students revisited their opinions about the study guide.

Those with positive opinions about the guide were particularly likely to change their minds when they learned that their peers didn't agree with them.

Students who didn't like the study guide disliked it even more if they were told that people they would soon meet in a focus group shared their negative views.

"A lot of papers have found that negativity is contagious. We found the effect was stronger when they had close ties or expected to have close interaction with that negative group," Duhachek says.

That doesn't mean that negativity always win out. The fact that it was a new product may have made a difference.

"We're not talking about entrenched political attitudes or any of the stickier attitudes," Duhachek says.

The findings appear in the Journal of Consumer Research.

(Do the opinions of others influence your choices? Talk about it on WebMD's Health Café message board.)

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