Yongwan Park (Barun ICT Research Center, Yonsei University)

Paul M. Herr (Pamplin College of Business, Virginia Tech)

Byung Cho Kim (LSOM of Korea University Business School)


A core assumption in most theories of human judgment is that judgments regarding an object are based on what descriptive information comes to mind at the time of judgment (e.g., Higgins
1996; Schwarz 2004). For example, we might form a more favorable attitude toward a product with more positive attributes than toward those with relatively few positive attributes.


However, human judgment is also influenced by consumers’ metacognitive experience, such as the ease of information retrieval or information processing fluency (Alter and Oppenheimer 2009; Schwarz 2004). In other words, when consumers make judgments about an object, they use not only the information content, but also the experience of processing the information.


For example, if consumers can think of 10 reasons to buy a product, they might predict that they would like it, because their favorable attitudes are supported by many reasons, compared to a case in which only one reason is thought of. However, thinking of 10 reasons to buy a product can be difficult, compared to thinking of one reason; hence, when asked to think of 10 reasons, consumers might think that their attitude toward the target product was less positive than what they had thought previously. Thus, the basic underlying mechanism of metacognitive experience is a misattribution of the source of experienced processing difficulty to one’s unfavorable attitude toward an object.


Some research has demonstrated that consumers’ subjective experience of processing difficulty could be interpreted positively depending on the context or situation. For example, Thompson and Chandon (2013) showed that disfluency enhanced judgments of a real estate agent’s competence, resulting in greater intention to hire. Participants in the disfluent condition evaluated a target service as more competitive and interpreted disfluency as a sign of effort. In this study, Park and colleagues investigated the role of metacognitive experience in perceptions of information security. Specifically, consumers’ perceived that information security would increase when the product description used less familiar terms (e.g., Hypertext Transfer Protocol) rather than familiar terms (e.g., HTTP). Although the information provided was identical, their perception of information security was affected by how it was presented.



The Effect of Disfluency on Consumer Perceptions of Information Security, Marketing Letters, 2016, Vol. 27 (3), p. 525-535