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Putting Yourself in Another's Shoes Actually Boosts Self-Centeredness

Update Date: Feb 25, 2015 06:47 PM EST

Putting yourself in another person's shoes might actually have the opposite effect, according to a new study on consumer behavior.

While salespeople have long been trained to imagine themselves as the customer, researchers found that doing so actually makes them more biased and self-centered.

"Ironically, putting oneself in the customer's shoes makes managers even more likely let their own feelings get in the way," study authors Johannes D. Hattula (Imperial College London), Walter Herzog (Otto Beisheim School of Management), Darren W. Dahl (University of British Columbia), and Sven Reinecke (University of St. Gallen), wrote in the paper. "Envisioning oneself as a consumer who is making personal choices causes the manager's true personal preferences to kick in."

The latest findings came from four separate studies where marketing managers were asked to consider a particular car model from a consumer's point of view.

Sales managers were significantly more likely to judge the car models from their own point of view when asked to describe how a typical consumer might feel about the model. The results were replicated in several experiments.

"Every day, marketers try to predict consumer preferences in order to develop new products, design advertisements, and make pricing decisions. Surprisingly, the long-established habit of putting themselves in the customers' place seems to make marketers even more vulnerable to letting their personal preferences interfere. The good news is that when marketers are aware of this fact, they are finally able to set aside their personal likes and dislikes and truly see things through a customer's eyes," researchers concluded.

The findings are published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

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