A Social Worth Framework of Perceived Persuasion: Understanding Consumers' Reactions to Feeling Targeted by Marketers' Persuasion Attempts
Consumers often react badly to marketers’ attempts to persuade them, demonstrating mostly negative attitudes towards salespeople, advertisements, and brands. Prior work typically attributes these reactions to inferences of persuasion motives (variously labelled ulterior motives, manipulative intent, and skepticism etc.). However, persuasion motives alone may not fully capture the reasons underlying consumers’ negative reactions to persuasion attempts. This dissertation explores the possibility that one of the reasons consumers react badly to persuasion is because being the target of a persuasion attempt can convey threatening social information. Thus, persuasion attempts convey low social worth, or beliefs that the agent has a low opinion of the consumer. This work examines this novel explanation and outcome of perceived persuasion, suggesting that even innocuous tactics, such as providing a recommendation, can lower consumers’ social worth and undermine consumers’ reactions towards firms and salespeople. Consistent with prior work, this dissertation suggests that perceiving a communication as persuasion is likely to activate consumers’ persuasion knowledge. However, this dissertation examines a series of nuanced inferences whereby consumers believe that the agent is attempting to induce the consumer to do something that serves the agent’s interests over those of the consumer, which conveys to consumers that the agent has a low opinion of them. This dissertation provides evidence from eight studies to support the hypothesized social framework for consumers’ negative reactions to persuasion, and it provides theoretical and managerial implications for this new social process.