Emotionally Numb: Expertise Dulls Consumer Experience

Matthew D. Rocklage*, Derek D. Rucker, Loran F. Nordgren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Expertise provides numerous benefits. Experts process information more efficiently, remember information better, and often make better decisions. Consumers pursue expertise in domains they love and chase experiences that make them feel something. Yet, might becoming an expert carry a cost for these very feelings? Across more than 700,000 consumers and 6 million observations, developing expertise in a hedonic domain predicts consumers becoming more emotionally numb - that is, having less intense emotion in response to their experiences. This numbness occurs across a range of domains - movies, photography, wine, and beer - and across diverse measures of emotion and expertise. It occurs in cross-sectional real-world data with certified experts, and in longitudinal real-world data that follows consumers over time and traces their emotional trajectories as they accrue expertise. Furthermore, this numbness can be explained by the cognitive structure experts develop and apply within a domain. Experimentally inducing cognitive structure led novice consumers to experience greater numbness. However, shifting experts away from using their cognitive structure restored their experience of emotion. Thus, although consumers actively pursue expertise in domains that bring them pleasure, the present work is the first to show that this pursuit can come with a hedonic cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-373
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

Keywords

  • attitudes
  • consumer knowledge
  • emotion
  • expertise
  • hedonic
  • language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing

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