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Consumer protection, betrayal aversion

Subject Categories

Consumer Protection Law | Law | Psychology


Consumers often face decisions about whether to purchase products that are intended to protect them from possible harm. However, safety products rarely provide perfect protection and sometimes "betray" consumers by causing the very harm they are intended to prevent. Examples include vaccines that may cause disease and air bags that may explode with such force that they cause death. Expanding research on betrayal aversion, this study examines the role of emotions in consumers' tendency to choose safety options that provide less overall protection in order to eliminate a very small probability of harm due to safety product betrayal. In five studies we find that betrayal aversion is reduced and safer alternatives are selected when factors that dampen the emotional response to potential betrayals are introduced or taken into account. These factors include changing the betrayal from an action to an omission (study 1), introducing positive imagery (study 2), introducing visual representations of risk (study 3), making the decision for another rather than oneself (study 4), and intuitive thinking style (study 5).