Why Product Recommendations Can Lead to Bad Decisions

by Jonah Berger for [email protected]

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Imagine you’re at a party or a conference and you’re talking about movies with two people you haven’t met before. One person says they like movie A, and another person says they recommend movie B. Which of those movies are you more likely to see as a result, and are you going to be happy with your choice?

What we find is that people are more likely to follow recommendations. You’re more likely to see movie B because you think the other person liked it more and it’s a better movie. But you might end up not liking that movie so much. You might end up making a worse choice because of the type of people that tend to use the word “I recommend.”

Whether we’re looking at books or wine or hotels, novices are more likely to say that they recommend something than experts. Experts aren’t as willing to use that “recommend” language. They’re more likely to say “I like” something. As a result, if people end up listening to recommendations, as they often do, they might sometimes end up making worse choices.

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