PhotoDo you ever find yourself agonizing over the price of something you’ve bought after the fact? Researchers from Vanderbilt University say it’s pretty common, and it often affects how much we enjoy the product too.

In a study, lead author Dr. Kelly Haws found that knowing the price of a product affected how much consumers valued it. "Being reminded of the price makes the experience less relaxing. This is due to the fact that we tend to evaluate the experience more critically when it's associated with money," she said.

Hurting the experience

To test their theory, the researchers had participants rate certain products with and without the knowledge of how much they cost. In the first scenario, participants were asked to select five songs online and listen to them three times before rating them on a scale of 1 to 100. While listening to the songs, one group could view the 99-cent price of buying each song, while the other group could not.

The researchers found that both groups gave the songs an average rating of 80 after listening to them the first time. However, after listening to it for the third time, the group that was able to see the song price dropped their average rating to 30, while the group that was unaware of the price only dropped their average rating to 60.

"The negative effect of pricing only emerged over time, not at the beginning," said Haws.

The same effect was observed in another scenario that asked consumers to retrieve M&Ms from a gumball machine. Participants who observed the price of the candies recorded lower overall satisfaction than those who were not aware of the price.

Separating price

So, what do these findings mean for consumers? For one, Haws points out that consumers who want to enjoy a product or experience shouldn’t focus on the price.

"If you are going on a date, don't talk about the cost. Or if you are going to an amusement park where the lines are long, thinking too much about the price of admission will steal away from your enjoyment of the experience," she said.

For marketers, the study could provide insight into how to boost enjoyment of a given product. Separating the price from the product, the researchers say, could lead to less consumer burnout and keep people from switching to another product over time.

The full study has been published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.


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