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Study says consumer mindset to get the "best" could lead to immoral behavior

A new study from researchers at Vanderbilt University finds the quest for consumers to find the "best" product or service could lead to immoral behavior. PHOTO: MGN

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--A new study from researchers at Vanderbilt University finds the quest for consumers to find the "best" product or service could lead to immoral behavior.

With the holiday shopping frenzy upon us, researchers say the search for an optimal service or product leads to a "maximizing mindset." This mindset could lead to feelings of scarcity when consumers don't get the "best" in life.

If feelings related to scarcity are triggered, researchers say it can "increase consumers' willingness to engage in immoral behavior for their own benefit."

To test their theory, researchers separated people into groups and presented one group with a series of word jumbles and another with math problems. Both groups were offered financial incentives.

However, the word jumble group was told to not to use outside resources because it constituted cheating and the math problem group was allowed to self-report their answers and grade themselves.

Researchers found those with a "maximizing mindset" were more likely to cheat on the word jumbles and were more likely to self-report they did better than they actually did on the math problems. Researchers compared the results to other groups whom had alternative motivations (mindsets) or focus.

Researcher Kelly Goldsmith says “Although many marketers want to motivate consumers to act in their own self-interest and to buy what is best for them. Our findings suggest that retailers who incorporate such messaging in-store may want to keep an eye out for ensuing immoral behavior, such as increases in theft or illegal returns.”

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