Facebook Twitter

Why you’re probably happier buying something that you don’t understand

A new study suggests people are happier when they buy something that was hard for them to understand.

SHARE Why you’re probably happier buying something that you don’t understand
Passers-by examine a storefront window, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Boston’s fashionable Newbury Street shopping district. The U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday that retail sales rose 0.6% last month, the fourth straight month of growth.

Passers-by examine a storefront window on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Boston’s fashionable Newbury Street shopping district.

Steven Senne, Associated Press

Researchers found in a recent study that people are happier with their purchases if they didn’t understand the product right away.

Research from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found the difficulty of one’s ability to process a message or marketing increases someone’s attitude toward the message over time.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say you want to purchase a camera, and you’re comparing two different advertisements. In one, the font, colors and layout make the information easy to read. The other has an obscure style that takes more time for you to understand. If you decide to purchase the second camera with the more confusing advertisement ... over time, you’ll likely be happier with your choice, according to a press release on the research.

This could have implication with real-world purchases.

  • “This research has real-life impact,” said study co-author Gaurav Jain, an assistant professor of marketing in the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer. “Most of the time, marketing communicators try to make their message clear. What we learned, however, is that there are certain times, especially when people need to make choices, when we should actually use disfluent stimuli so that whatever people are choosing, they will like it once time has passed.”

The study said people who spend time trying to make a decision about understand a product later think they were making a decision about buying the product.

So that means people often confuse figuring out what the device was with deciding whether to buy it.

  • “When people are making decisions,” Jain said, “be it choosing between insurance products, retirement funds, or even when choosing an elected official, marketers and designers need to remember that if we can make an individual spend some time in that choosing process, it’s more likely people will stick with the option they chose over time.”