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Consumer responses to flattery during sales transactions : empirical evidence of the sinister attribution error Main, Kelley J.

Abstract

The aim of the current research was to examine consumer reactions to flattery using an attributional framework. The first study, using scenario methodology, illustrated that consumers made rational and irrational attributions for flattery. Consumers who were flattered prior to purchase accurately adjusted for the presence of ulterior motives and responded negatively to flattery whereas consumers who were flattered after purchase over accounted for the possibility of ulterior motives and responded more negatively than was warranted by the situation. The second study, a field experiment, demonstrated that consumers in a real shopping situation were even less likely to distinguish between when flattery occurred and responded simply to its presence or absence. This negativity in consumers flattered after purchase is evidence of the sinister attribution error; as consumers were overly suspicious of the motives and intentions of others. The third study, also a field experiment, demonstrated that even flattery preceded by a negative evaluation only resulted in a slightly more positive response from consumers. The contributions of the current research are discussed within their relevant literatures.

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