Circles, Squares, and Choice: The Effect of Shape Arrays on Uniqueness and Variety Seeking

Circles, Squares, and Choice: The Effect of Shape Arrays on Uniqueness and Variety Seeking

By
Michael Maimaran, S. Christian Wheeler
Journal of Marketing Research. December
2008, Vol. 45, Issue 6, Pages 731-740

Five experiments demonstrate that exposure to novel visual stimulus arrays of geometric shapes affects consumers’ real choices among products. The authors first demonstrate that exposure to variety arrays (arrays of differing shapes) increases variety seeking (Study 1). They then show that exposure to uniqueness arrays (e.g., one circle among six squares) increases choice of unique over common objects (Studies 2 and 3) and interacts with chronic need for uniqueness (Study 3). In the final two studies, the authors show that variety and uniqueness arrays activate distinct constructs; specifically, they find no effect of exposure to uniqueness arrays on variety seeking (Study 4a) and no effect of exposure to variety arrays on uniqueness seeking (Study 4b). Taken together, these studies build on the existing literature about nonconscious effects on consumer behavior and choice behavior in particular by showing that consumers’ real choices are affected by subtle exposure to novel stimuli that do not have any previous associations.