From inherent value to incentive value: When and why pointless effort enhances consumer preference

Sara Kim*, Aparna A. Labroo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Companies typically use clear fonts and bright pictures in their ads, Web sites, and product-package designs; place their products on easy-to-reach shelves; and emphasize ease-of-usage to make their products appear desirable to consumers. However, we suggest that customers focused on 'incentive' value (getting the best product) may instead see products associated with noninstrumental (pointless) effort as more desirable. We suggest that because effort is usually required to get the best outcomes, people looking for the best outcomes also mistakenly presume effort must imply the best possible outcome. Across five studies, we show that highlighting incentive value-for instance, by message framing or by measuring chronic focus or by manipulating situational focus on incentive value-enhances preference toward outcomes associated with noninstrumental effort. We discuss the importance of our findings for understanding everyday consumption decisions and argue for a widespread tendency among individuals wanting the best to infer value from noninstrumental effort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)712-742
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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