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Optimistic Consumers Have More Trust in Salespeople

Update Date: Apr 17, 2012 01:27 AM EDT

After a purchase, consumers who believe the world is a just place trust salespeople more than people who don't, according to a new study.

"As consumers, we make many decisions each day that may or may not turn out the way we hope. Since we know salespeople may have their own reasons for the advice and recommendations they give, trusting a salesperson may put us at further risk of making a bad decision," stated authors Andrew E. Wilson at Saint Mary's College of California and Peter R. Darke at York University.

The researchers examined how customers balance the tension between trust and protecting themselves from making bad decisions. For instance, in one study, they asked subjects to select between two digital cameras that a salesperson had recommended. Half the participants told the researchers how much they trusted the salesperson before they made their choice; the other half rated their trust after the made their choice. The team asked all the participants to tell them how much they believed their personal world was a place where they generally got what they deserved. The data analysis demonstrates that after making a choice, participants who believed in a just world trusted the salesperson more than those who did not hold this belief. Before making the choice, both groups trusted the salesperson equally.

In the second study, the authors manipulated worldviews and found that optimism also led to increased trust in salespeople after purchase decisions, but only when participants did not detect an ulterior motive in the salesperson.

In the last study, the team found that the coping mechanism they studied only occurred when consumers were considering their own purchases, not others'. They also found that consumers who showed more trust became more satisfied with their purchase decisions.

"Consumers who believe they live in a just world use this belief as a resource in coping with the difficulty of making consumer decisions, and this has the somewhat surprising effect that they end up trusting salespeople more following a choice," the authors said.

The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Research. 

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