Informational Influence and the Ambiguity of Product Experience: Order Effects on the Weighting of Evidence
This article examines how others’ opinions can influence a consumer's evaluation of a product. This influence is said to be informational when the consumer accepts it as evidence of the product's true nature. An anchoring and adjustment process is proposed to explain how information from others is combined with direct experience when consumers form a global evaluation of a product. Two experiments are conducted to test this explanation. Findings from the two experiments suggest that when others offer their opinions about the quality of a product, the opinions have the most potential to influence a consumer who has tried the product when the opinions are considered before the consumer considers the evaluative implications of his or her own product experience. Findings from a third experiment suggest that others’ opinions about product quality have limited potential to influence a consumer who has had an unambiguous experience with the product, even when conditions are most favorable for an influence to occur. The 3 experiments suggest that informational social influence obeys information processing principles associated with other kinds of private judgments.