We've located the reality distortion field, and it's in the consumer's brain

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2012-10-26

For some consumers, "blue liquid," "newfangled," and "free steak knife," are the only descriptions necessary to justify purchasing a product.

The Ars Technica readership generally prides itself on wanting to know the technical details behind products, and finding these details generally increases the average Ars reader's desire for a product. But not everybody falls into this information-loving category; for some, learning more about a product actually makes them desire it less. Now, researchers have come up with an explanation for these information foes: the added details expose their existing understanding as shallow, which leaves them disappointed.

The authors of the new study posit that the difference between these two types of consumers comes down to their taste for understanding things. There's a commonly used test, called the cognitive reflection test (CRT), that provides a measure of how much mental energy people tend to put into things. It measures this by providing a series of questions with obvious, intuitive answers that are actually wrong. To recognize that your intuitions are leading you astray, you have to stop and take the time to think about your answer a bit. By measuring the frequency with which people pick the intuitive answer, the test provides a measure of their tendency to think carefully.

The authors hypothesized that this desire to think things through would correlate with a consumer's desire for information about a product. Those with a low CRT score wouldn't care much about how a product worked, while those with what they termed a "need for cognition" would put effort into understand what they were buying.

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