Are Consumers Too Trusting?? The Effects of Relationships with Expert Advisers

Schwartz, Janet; Luce, Mary Frances; Ariely, Dan
October 2011
Journal of Marketing Research (JMR);Oct2011 Supplement 1, Vol. 48, pS163
Academic Journal
Many important and complex consumer decisions rely on the advice of trusted professional experts. Many experts, however, such as doctors, financial advisers, and accountants, may be prone to conflicts of interest. As such, consumers may seek a second opinion. A series of studies investigate consumers' reluctance to seek additional advice in the context of having an ongoing relationship with one expert service provider. The authors find evidence in health care claims that long-term relationships contribute to more expensive, but not necessarily better, treatment. In addition, a series of experiments show that people recognize when they could benefit from a second opinion but are more reluctant to do so when thinking about their own providers rather than someone else's. Further studies test a relationship maintenance hypothesis and show that consumers' reluctance to seek second opinions is partially driven by their motivation to preserve relationship harmony, even when it is at their own personal expense and well-being. Taken together, these results provide important insight into the potential limitations and consequences of longstanding relationships between consumers and experts.


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