Barasch, Alixandra

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  • Publication
    The Detrimental Effects of External Objectives in Consumer Behavior
    (2016-01-01) Barasch, Alixandra
    Consumers often engage in behaviors that are meaningful or self-relevant. These behaviors are typically guided by internal processes and motivations; as a result, extrinsic objectives can be disruptive. In my dissertation, I explore two distinct areas in which an external goal or incentive can be detrimental for consumers. In my first essay, I examine the utility people derive from their experiences as a function of their photo-taking goals. Virtually all people strive to maximize the happiness they obtain from their experiences, both living them in the moment and reliving them in the future. In a world where photo-taking is becoming increasingly common in almost every experience, it is important to understand how consumers’ photo-taking objectives influence how much they enjoy their experiences. In two field and four laboratory studies, we find that relative to taking photos to preserve memories for oneself, taking photos to share with others decreases consumers’ enjoyment of an experience. This effect occurs because taking photos to share increases anxiety from self-presentational concern. In other words, taking photos with the goal of sharing them with others, that is, with an extrinsic social motivation, can make rewarding activities less enjoyable. In my second essay, I investigate individuals’ effectiveness in persuading others to donate to a cause as a function of whether they were incentivized. Many individuals are intrinsically motivated to perform prosocial acts; that is, they are internally driven to help others. For activities like this that provide their own inherent reward, the introduction of an external motivator, such as a monetary incentive, can reduce effort or persistence on simple quantifiable tasks. But no work has examined the effect of incentives on prosocial tasks that require special skills or abilities, such as communicating and convincing others to do good deeds. In three fundraising experiments, we find that monetary incentives make individuals less effective in persuading others to donate to a cause by undermining their perceived sincerity. In other words, extrinsic material rewards can “crowd out” individuals’ genuineness of expression and thus their ability to gain support for a cause.