Echo Wen WAN
Prof. Echo Wen WAN
Associate Dean (MBA)
Director, Institute of Behavioural and Decision Science

3917 4211

KK 715

Stars versus Bars: How the Aesthetics of Product Ratings “Shape” Product Preference

Websites commonly use visual formats to display numerical product ratings. Highlighting the overlooked notion of the “aesthetics” of product ratings, the current research examines how the shape of basic visual rating units (rectangular vs. non-rectangular) influences product preference. Seven experiments (and 23 supplementary experiments; N = 17,994) demonstrate a visual rounding effect. Specifically, compared to the rectangular rating format (e.g., bar ratings), the non-rectangular rating format (e.g., star ratings) increases product preference when product ratings (e.g., 3.7, 3.8, 3.9) are below the nearest integer. In contrast, the non-rectangular rating format decreases product preference when product ratings (e.g., 4.1, 4.2, 4.3) are above the nearest integer. Occurring for both the overall rating and by-attribute ratings of a product, the visual rounding effect results from a visual completeness restoration process, wherein consumers perceive non-rectangular rating units to be incomplete after vertical cutting. This research contributes to the product rating and visual marketing literatures and provides actionable implications by demonstrating what visual rating format should be adopted based on rating distribution, how the visual rounding effect can be prevented if needed, and who are even more susceptible to the visual rounding effect.

The Influence of Product Anthropomorphism on Comparative Judgment

The present research proposes a new perspective to investigate the effect of product anthropomorphism on consumers’ comparative judgment strategy in comparing two anthropomorphized (vs. two nonanthropomorphized) product options in a consideration set. Six experiments show that anthropomorphism increases consumers’ use of an absolute judgment strategy (vs. a dimension-by-dimension strategy) in comparative judgment, leading to increased preference for the option with a more favorable overall evaluation over the option with a greater number of superior dimensions. The effect is mediated by consumers’ perception of each anthropomorphized product alternative as an integrated entity rather than a bundle of separate attributes. The authors find the effect to be robust by directly tracing the process of participants’ information processing using MouseLab software and eye-tracking techniques, and by self-reported preferences and real consumption choices. Moreover, the effect is moderated by the motivation to seek maximized accuracy or ease. These studies have important implications for theories about anthropomorphism and comparative judgment as well as marketing practice.

Filling an Empty Self: The Impact of Social Exclusion on Consumer Preference for Visual Density

This research examines the effect of social exclusion on consumers’ preferences for visual density. Based on seven experimental studies, we reveal that consumers who perceive themselves as socially excluded evaluate products with dense visual patterns more positively than their nonexcluded peers. This effect occurs because social exclusion triggers a feeling of psychological emptiness and dense patterns can provide a sense of being “filled,” which helps to alleviate this feeling of emptiness. This effect is attenuated when consumers physically fill something or experience a feeling of “temporal density” (i.e., imagining a busy schedule with many tasks packed into a short time). These results shed light on consumers’ socially grounded product aesthetic preferences and offer practical implications for marketers, designers, and policy makers.

BEAUTY: In the Eye of the consumer?

New research into consumer buying behaviour shows that endowing products with human-like characteristics increases their appeal to customers when the product has attractive appearance design. By adapting their product designs and packaging in line with these findings, marketers and product developers can gain an edge over the competition and improve the chances that customers will choose their products.