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Explanation Fiends and Foes: How Mechanistic Detail Determines Understanding and Preference

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  • Philip M. Fernbach
  • Steven A. Sloman
  • Robert St. Louis
  • Julia N. Shube
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    Abstract

    People differ in their threshold for satisfactory causal understanding and therefore in the type of explanation that will engender understanding and maximize the appeal of a novel product. Explanation fiends are dissatisfied with surface understanding and desire detailed mechanistic explanations of how products work. In contrast, explanation foes derive less understanding from detailed than coarse explanations and downgrade products that are explained in detail. Consumers’ attitude toward explanation is predicted by their tendency to deliberate, as measured by the cognitive reflection test. Cognitive reflection also predicts susceptibility to the illusion of explanatory depth, the unjustified belief that one understands how things work. When explanation foes attempt to explain, it exposes the illusion, which leads to a decrease in willingness to pay. In contrast, explanation fiends are willing to pay more after generating explanations. We hypothesize that those low in cognitive reflection are explanation foes because explanatory detail shatters their illusion of understanding.

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    File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/10.1086/667782
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    File URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/667782
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Consumer Research.

    Volume (Year): 39 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 5 ()
    Pages: 1115 - 1131

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    Handle: RePEc:ucp:jconrs:doi:10.1086/667782

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    Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JCR/

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    1. Oechssler, Jörg & Roider, Andreas & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2009. "Cognitive abilities and behavioral biases," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 147-152, October.
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    6. Fox, Craig R & Tversky, Amos, 1995. "Ambiguity Aversion and Comparative Ignorance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 585-603, August.
    7. Shane Frederick, 2005. "Cognitive Reflection and Decision Making," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(4), pages 25-42, Fall.
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