Recommended Reading / Theory

Explanation Fiends and Foes

Fernbach article

Explanation Fiends and Foes: How Mechanistic Detail Determines Understanding and Preference
Philip M. Fernbach, Steven A. Sloman, Robert St. Louis, and Julia N. Shube

Journal of Consumer Research
Vol. 39, No. 5 (February 2013), pp. 1115-1131
Published by: The University of Chicago Press

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Consumers differ in their threshold for satisfactory causal understanding and therefore in the type of explanation that will engender understanding and maximize the appeal of a novel product. Explanation fiends are dissatisfied with surface understanding and desire detailed mechanistic explanations of how products work. In contrast, explanation foes derive less understanding from detailed than coarse explanations and downgrade products that are explained in detail. Consumer attitude toward explanation is predicted by tendency to deliberate, as measured by the cognitive reflection test. Cognitive reflection also predicts susceptibility to the illusion of explanatory depth, the unjustified belief that one understands how things work. When explanation foes attempt to explain, it exposes the illusion, which leads to a decrease in willingness to pay. In contrast, explanation fiends are willing to pay more after generating explanations. The authors hypothesize that those low in cognitive reflection are explanation foes because explanatory detail shatters their illusion of understanding.

See also: It’s all in the details: Why are some consumers willing to pay more for less information?


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