Managerial Empathy Facilitates Egocentric Predictions of Consumer Preferences
Johannes Hattula et al. Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming
Abstract: Common wisdom suggests that managerial empathy (i.e., the mental process of taking a consumer perspective) helps executives to separate their personal consumption preferences from those of consumers, thereby preventing egocentric preference predictions. The results of the present investigation, however, show exactly the opposite. First, the authors find that managerial empathy ironically accelerates self-reference in predictions of consumer preferences. Second, managers' self-referential tendencies increase with empathy because taking a consumer perspective activates managers' private consumer identity and thus their personal consumption preferences. Third, empathic managers are less likely to use market research results as a consequence of their self-referential preference predictions. Finally, the findings imply that when explicitly instructed to do so, managers are capable of suppressing their private consumer identity in the process of perspective taking which helps them to reduce self-referential preference predictions. To support their conclusions, the authors present four empirical studies with 480 experienced marketing managers and show that incautiously taking the perspective of consumers causes self-referential decisions in four contexts: product development, communication management, pricing, and celebrity endorsement.
Nod to Kevin Lewis