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Personality traits and consumer competition

Published: 2013-08-06

Associate Professor Rebecca Walker Naylor

Are we our own worst enemy?

Not when we're in the marketplace. A study by Fisher's Rebecca Walker Naylor and researchers from the University of Connecticut and the University of Pittsburgh found that personality similarities to other consumers lower our aggressiveness toward them, while ambiguity or dissimilarity with someone tends to increase aggression.

The study consisted of a series of simulated online auctions in which some participants were provided profiles of other bidders that were like or unlike themselves. Other participants were not provided any information about bidders. The study found:

  • Individuals who were pitted against someone similar to themselves bid less aggressively than those who were either dissimilar to or unaware of another consumer.
  • Ambiguity and dissimilarity generated nearly equal amounts of aggression.

The trial provides valuable information for marketers and consumers. Marketers should think carefully about linking consumers' activities to social media profiles for fear of exposing similar customers to each other, thereby decreasing demand and driving prices down. On the other hand, consumers should be wary about a wealth or dearth of information about other buyers, either of which could result in overpaying or underbidding.