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Doing it the Hard Way: Low Control Drives Preferences for High Effort Products and Services

Keisha Cutright, University of Pennsylvania
Adriana Samper, Arizona State University

Consumers often partner with products or services as they strive to make themselves skinnier, smarter, cleaner and healthier.  But, exactly what role should a product or service play in delivering these outcomes?  Should it require little effort and promise to do the hard work for the consumer?  Or, should it require that the consumer do the hard work in order to ultimately achieve the same outcomes?  We suggest that, when individuals face low feelings of control, they surprisingly prefer products and services that require higher effort from them.  We test this hypothesis across seven studies, manipulating feelings of control and assessing responses to various products and services across health, academics and athletics.  We find that the desire to exert increased effort when control is low is driven by an anticipated and actual sense of empowerment gained by working hard.


Keisha Cutright, University of Pennsylvania; Adriana Samper, Arizona State University (Working paper)