2013. Vol.4, No.3A, 302-308
Published Online March 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
False Beliefs Can Shape Current Consumption
Antonia Mantonakis1, Amanda Wudarzewski2, Daniel M. Bernstein3,
Seema L. Clifasefi4, Elizabeth F. Loftus5
1Department of Marketing, International Business and Strategy, Goodman School of Business,
Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada
2Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
3Department of Psychology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Surrey, Canada
4Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behavior, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
5Psychology & Social Behavior, Criminology, Law & Society, Cognitive Sciences, University of California,
Irvine, USA
Received December 21st, 2102; revised January 17th, 2013; accepted February 15th, 2013
In this study, we explore whether false beliefs about a past experience affect current consumption of wine
by suggesting to participants that they either “Loved” or “Got Sick” from drinking white wine before age
20. Specifically, we report the consequences of false beliefs about wine, which could take the form of ei-
ther increased or decreased wine consumption. In response to the suggestion, and similar to other false
memory studies many participants became more confident that the suggested event occurred in their past.
However, it was easier to influence participants’ consumption behavior when we used the “Loved” sug-
gestion rather than the “Got Sick” suggestion. This finding has implications for marketers who use sug-
gestions to influence product consumption by connecting consumers to their autobiographical memories.
Keywords: Consumption; False Memory; False Beliefs; Nostalgia; Consumer Memory
Marketers alter extrinsic properties of goods, while leaving
their intrinsic qualities untouched. Such extrinsic properties
include a good’s price (Plassman, O’Doherty, Shiv, & Rangel,
2008), color (Hoegg & Alba, 2007), brand name (Allison &
Uhl, 1964), stated ingredients (Lee, Frederick, & Ariely, 2006),
or description (e.g., “healthy” is rated as less tasty; Raghuna-
than, Naylor, & Hoyer, 2006). Consumers use extrinsic cues to
infer a product’s quality, and this can change consumption pat-
terns. Thus, determining the influence of marketing actions on
how much a consumer actually consumes is valuable to a firm.
A less studied example of marketing tactics involves using
subtle suggestions to change people’s beliefs about their auto-
biographical history with a particular product. In fact, there is a
type of advertising used by marketers that capitalizes on con-
sumer nostalgia (Baumgartner, Sujan, & Bettman, 1992). Nos-
talgia is a warm, longing feeling from the past that can influ-
ence consumer preferences (Holbrook, 1993; Holbrook & Sch-
indler, 2003). For example, Kellogg’s popular jingle, “Two
scoops of juicy raisins in Kellogg’s Raisin Bran” was revived
in 2006, 13 years after it originally aired. We wondered whe-
ther making subtle suggestions pertaining to consumers’ auto-
biographical history (e.g., having loved a specific good in the
past) would increase their consumption of the referenced good.
There is ample evidence that (false) advertising messages
received after a consumption experience can alter how that
experience is remembered and evaluated (Braun, 1999; Braun,
Ellis, & Loftus, 2001; Cowley & Janus, 2004). We know that
simply asking a question increases the frequency of behavior
pertaining to that question. For example, asking one’s opinions
about voting increases the likelihood that they will vote (Kraut
& McConahay, 1973). However, we do not know whether false
messages (i.e., asking a question about something that never
happened) affect consumption. Specifically, we do not know
whether marketing-related suggestions or questions about a per-
son’s autobiographical history can change consumption pat-
Although marketers would not likely use nostalgia to de-
crease consumption, it seems that subtle, negative suggestions
about a person’s autobiographical history can decrease con-
sumption. Several studies demonstrate that false beliefs, created
by convincing people that they had a negative experience with a
food as a child (which never actually happened), can make
people report avoidance of the food, and actually eat less of it
(Bernstein, Laney, Morris, & Loftus, 2005; Geraerts, Bernstein,
Merckelbach, Linders, Raymaekers, & Loftus, 2008; Scoboria,
Mazzoni, & Jarry, 2008; Scoboria, Mazzoni, Jarry, & Bernstein,
2012; see also Morewedge, Huh, & Vosgerau, 2010). The cur-
rent study extends the previous literature by directly addressing
whether false suggestions can affect subsequent consumption
patterns. Additionally, it is not clear from the previous studies
in this area: a) whether subtle false suggestions about a per-
son’s more recent (as opposed to childhood) autobiographical
history can change consumption; b) whether subtle false sug-
gestions can increase consumption; and c) whether it might be
easier for false suggestions to increase rather than decrease
consumption. Our study directly speaks to these shortcomings.
In the study we present here, we examine whether a false
suggestion that participants had experienced either a positive or
a negative experience with white wine prior to age 20 influ-
enced their actual consumption. Specifically, we explore whe-
ther a false belief of having loved or gotten sick from drinking
white wine prior to the age of 20 would result in increased or
decreased white wine consumption, respectively.
How would a false belief change consumption? Autobio-
graphical memory is a consumer’s memory of their own per-
sonal past experiences. This type of memory is of interest to
consumer behavior researchers because, though malleable,
memory relates to the development of a person’s self-concept
(Hyman, Husband, & Billings, 1995). The broad theoretical
framework from which this type of research stems is the notion
of reconstructive memory, or the notion that memory is not
about simple retrieval, but rather reconstruction (Bartlett, 1932).
Indeed consumers’ unique autobiographical memories are con-
tinuously being revised to fit changing knowledge about the
self (Neisser & Fivush, 1994). Researchers attempt to plant
product-related memories about experiences, and subsequently
examine whether these planted memories affect participants’
confidence ratings of actually having had those experiences in
the past (Braun et al., 2001). Simply imagining an experience is
sufficient to increase confidence that the experience occurred to
oneself (Garry, Manning, Loftus, & Sherman, 1996), leading to
a false autobiographical belief.
Given the aforementioned work, false suggestions (Loftus &
Pickrell, 1995) and instructions for imagination (Hyman &
Pentland, 1996) can lead to false autobiographical beliefs (as
measured by confidence ratings). Several studies show that sub-
tle, negative suggestions about a person’s autobiographical his-
tory can decrease consumption, but the question remains as to
whether subtle, positive suggestions can lead to increases in
consumption (but see Laney, Morris, Bernstein, Wakefield, &
Loftus, 2008 for one example done with self-reported food
preferences). The current research examines whether there are
similar effects of positive versus negative false autobiographi-
cal suggestion on actual consumption.
One study reports that true memories for positive and nega-
tive experiences serve different functions (Pillemer, 2009), and
that true autobiographical memories influence intentions and
behavioral outcomes more so for positive versus negative auto-
biographical memories (Kuwabara & Pillemer, 2010). Specifi-
cally, while recounting true positive memories increases inten-
tions and increases the likelihood of executing those intentions
(see also Pezdek & Salim, 2011), recounting true negative
memories has no such effect. Based on this finding, we hy-
pothesized that subtle false suggestions relating to one’s auto-
biographical history will be more likely to lead to behavioral
consequences for positive suggestions compared to negative
We recruited 181 students and local community members of
a mid-sized North American university via advertisements to
participate in a study of “Tastes and Experiences”. Our sample
was 63% female and 37% male, ranging in age from 19, the
local legal drinking age, to 77, with an average age of 24.6, and
a median of 22. Participants received either course credit or $10
as compensation. The University’s Institutional Review Board
approved all experimental methods.
Experimental Groups
We randomly assigned participants to one of two groups,
which differed based on the valence of the critical item (“Loved
to drink white wine” or “Got sick after drinking white wine”).
Within each of these two groups, we further randomized par-
ticipants into either the experimental or control condition, based
on whether a wine suggestion would be received during a sec-
ond experimental session. Thus, there were two control groups;
one corresponding to the “Loved” group and one corresponding
to the “Got Sick” group (cf. Bernstein et al., 2005).
Participants completed two sessions wherein they completed
various questionnaires. During session 1, participants individu-
ally completed questionnaires, including a Party Behavior
Questionnaire, Food Preferences Questionnaire, and a 24-item
Food History Inventory (Bernstein et al., 2005). The Food His-
tory Inventory contained one of two critical events: “Loved to
drink white wine” (n = 87) or “Got sick after drinking white
wine” (n = 94). Given that “Got Sick” was used in previous
research (Bernstein et al., 2005), and there is no direct opposite
of it, we chose to use “Loved”, another manipulation used in
previous research (Laney, Kaasa, Morris, Berkowitz, Bernstein,
& Loftus, 2008). Participants rated whether each of the 24
events (e.g., “Ate a piece of banana cream pie”) on the Inven-
tory occurred to them before the age of 20, using a scale an-
chored at 1 = definitely did not happen and 8 = definitely did
One week later, during session 2, participants returned to the
lab and received false feedback about their responses to the
questionnaires that they had completed in session 1. The ex-
perimenter falsely suggested to all participants that, after run-
ning their previous responses through a computer system, the
system had generated an individualized profile of their con-
sumption experiences prior to age 20. Each participant’s profile
indicated that they liked pizza and that they disliked spinach.
Additionally, most participants received a) a further false sug-
gestion about the white wine event to which they had responded
in the first session (“You loved drinking white wine” for the
“Loved” group, or “You got sick after drinking white wine” for
the “Got Sick” group); the remaining participants received b)
no false suggestion about wine. This produced four groups: the
Loved/Suggestion group (n = 61), the Loved/No Suggestion
group (n = 26), the Got Sick/Suggestion group (n = 58), or the
Got Sick/No Suggestion group (n = 36). To ensure that partici-
pants considered the feedback, the experimenter instructed
them to imagine the setting in which these experiences may
have happened, and indicate where the event may have oc-
curred, and with whom they may have been when it occurred.
Participants individually completed another questionnaire
similar to those used in session 1 (i.e., a Food Costs Question-
naire where participants were asked the most they’d be willing
to pay for items such as a dozen eggs; Bernstein et al., 2005), as
well as the Food History Inventory (again). Responses on the
critical question in the Food History Inventory were used to
determine whether there were any changes in confidence that
the critical event (“Loved to drink white wine” for the Loved/
Suggestion and Loved/No Suggestion groups; “Got sick after
drinking white wine” for the Got Sick/Suggestion and Got
Sick/No Suggestion groups) occurred before age 20. Note that
random fluctuation in responses to the critical event would have
been captured in the No Suggestion conditions. Participants
also completed a memory-or-belief form where they answered
questions about their memory for the events mentioned in the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 303
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
generated profile. Participants indicated “M” if they had a
“memory” about the event, a “B” if they had a “belief that the
event happened to them but could not generate a memory”, and
“P” if they were “positive that the events on the generated pro-
file did not happen to them before the age of 20”. Participants
elaborated on their answers by writing as many details as pos-
sible, or by writing why they were certain the event never hap-
After participants answered various demographic questions
and a question about what they thought the study’s purpose was,
we offered them a complimentary glass of white wine (3.04
ounces; 90 ml in total, which is less than a standard alcoholic
drink; MADD, n.d.), which we ostensibly offered to mark the
grand opening of a new wine institute at the University. We
chose wine as our alcoholic beverage because a new Oenology
and Viticulture Institute did in fact open in our University, and
we had access to student-produced wine, which could be used
in behavioral studies. Participants could drink as much or as
little from the glass (to the maximum of 3.04 ounces; 90 ml in
total) as they liked. After the session, the experimenter meas-
ured in ml the amount of wine consumed. Participants were
debriefed, and were administered a breathalyzer test prior to
departing the lab, to ensure that blood alcohol levels were be-
low the legal limit of .08 for driving We randomly assigned
participants to one of two groups, which differed based on the
valence of the critical item (“Loved to drink white wine” or
“Got sick after drinking white wine”). Within each of these two
groups, we further randomized participants into either the ex-
perimental or control condition, based on whether a wine sug-
gestion would be received during a second experimental session.
Thus, there were two control groups; one corresponding to the
“Loved” group and one corresponding to the “Got Sick” group
(cf. Bernstein et al., 2005).
We wanted to focus on examining the effects of changes in
beliefs (from the false suggestion) on consumption, so we ana-
lyzed responses to only the questionnaire pertaining to changes
in belief. Confidence ratings for the critical items from the
Food History Inventory, as well as the amount consumed, rep-
resent our key dependent variables of interest, and we analyze
these in turn.
We classified participants as having arguably true memories
of the critical event if they had scored above 4 for the critical
item on the Food History Inventory during session 1, and also
reported a memory or belief of the experience (Geraerts et al.,
2008). Exclusion criteria included participants who we classi-
fied as having arguably true memories of the event (n = 54) or
those who correctly guessed the hypothesis of the study (n = 5).
Including these 59 participants did not change the results;
however, we wanted to remove them to ensure that we were
studying arguably false beliefs and memories. To separate those
who did and did not believe the suggestion, we identified par-
ticipants as being believers (n = 36), nonbelievers (n = 43), or
controls (n = 43). We classified participants as believers if they
met all of these criteria: 1) low confidence ratings that the
critical event occurred before age 20 in session 1 (i.e., they
answered 1 - 4 on the Food History Inventory during session 1);
2) an increase in confidence ratings from session 1 to session 2;
and 3) reported the critical event as a “memory”(n = 16; 44% of
believers) or “belief” (n = 19; 53% of believers) that it occurred,
in session 2. We classified participants as nonbelievers if their
confidence that the critical event occurred before age 20 did not
change or decreased from session 1 to session 2, or if they re-
ported that the event positively did not occur. Thirty-five out of
the 43 participants in this category reported that they were posi-
tive the event did not occur. We present two primary data
analyses to address our research question, one based on changes
to confidence after receiving the suggestion, and one based on
changes to wine consumption.
Confidence Ratings
Confidence ratings for session 1 and session 2 on the Food
History Inventory appear in Figure 1. We conducted a 2 × 3
mixed analysis of variance (ANOVA), with Food History In-
ventory Session (1 vs. 2) as the within-subjects factor and Be-
liever type (believer, nonbeliever, and control) as the be-
tween-subjects factor. A significant Food History Inventory
session by believer type interaction emerged, F(2, 119) = 68.87,
p < .001, ηp2 = .54. The interaction remains significant when
collapsing Believers and Nonbelievers, and comparing only
participants in the Suggestion versus No Suggestion groups in a
Figure 1.
Participants’ mean confidence in the critical event (having loved or having gotten sick from white wine before
the age of 20) for session 1 and 2 as a function of experimental condition. Note. Sessions 1 and 2 were sepa-
rated by 1 week; Session 1 occurred before participants received the false suggestion. Results for participants
who believed the false suggestion (Believers), participants who did not believe the false suggestion (Nonbe-
lievers), and control participants who were not exposed to the false suggestion (Controls). Error bars represent
standard errors of the means.
2 (Food History Inventory Session) × 2 (Suggestion type)
ANOVA, F(1, 120) = 7.79, p = .006, ηp2 = .06.
As expected by our definition of Believers for the “Loved”
group, believers were more confident that the event happened
after the manipulation than before, whereas nonbelievers and
controls expressed low confidence in both sessions. A 2 × 3
ANOVA conducted on the “Loved” group, with Food History
Session (1 versus 2) and Believer type (believers, nonbelievers,
controls) as factors showed that believers were more confident
than nonbelievers and controls that the critical event (having
loved drinking white wine) had occurred before age 20, F(2, 51)
= 32.57, p < .001, ηp2 = .56. Whereas the believers showed a
significant increase in confidence from session 1 to 2, F(1, 13)
= 104.31, p < .001, ηp2 = .89, this was not the case for the non-
believers or controls (p’s = .46, .11 respectively). Age did not
moderate the effects.
As expected, a 2 × 3 ANOVA conducted on the “Got Sick”
group, with Food History Session (1 versus 2) and Believer
type (believers, nonbelievers, controls) as factors, showed that
believers were more confident than nonbelievers and controls
that the critical event (having gotten sick from white wine) had
occurred before age 20, F(2, 65) = 35.75, p < .001, ηp2 = .52.
Whereas the believers showed a significant increase in confi-
dence from session 1 to 2, F(1, 21) = 180.26, p < .001, ηp2 = .90,
this was not the case for the nonbelievers or controls (p’s
= .32, .06 respectively). Age did not moderate the effects.
Consumptio n D a ta
In Table 1, we report the amount of wine that participants
consumed. A 2 × 3 ANOVA with Valence (“Loved” vs. “Got
Sick”) and Believer type (believers, nonbelievers, controls) as
factors revealed that both “Loved” and “Got Sick” groups dif-
fered in the amount of wine that they consumed, based on
whether they were believers, nonbelievers, or controls, interac-
tion, F(2, 116) = 4.07, p = .02, ηp2 = .07.
For the “Loved” group, the believers (M = 58.21) consumed
significantly more than both the “Loved” nonbelievers, (M =
29.92), F(1, 36) = 6.84, p = .013, ηp2 = .16, and the “Loved”
controls (M = 23.68), F(1, 28) = 7.69, p = .01, ηp2 = .22. Note
that when collapsing across Believer type, the effect of Sugges-
tion versus No Suggestion on amount consumed fails to reach
conventional levels of statistical significance, F(1, 53) = 2.70, p
= .11.
For the sick group, the believers (M = 28.95) consumed
slightly less than the sick nonbelievers (M = 34.89), and the
sick controls (M = 33.63), although this reduction was not sta-
tistically significant for either (p’s = .52 and .59 respectively).
Table 1.
Mean (standard error of the mean in parentheses) amout of wine con-
sumed in ml and sample size.
Suggestion Condition “Loved” Group “Got Sick” Group
M (SE) N M (SE) N
Believers 58.21 (9.38) 14 28.95 (5.27) 22
Nonbelievers 29.92 (6.11) 24 34.89 (7.79) 19
Controls 23.68 (8.26) 16 33.63 (6.57) 27
Note: Results for participants who believed the false suggestion (Believers),
participants who did not believe the false suggestion (Nonbelievers), and control
participants who were not exposed to the false suggestion (Controls).
Again, when collapsing across Believer type, the effect of Sug-
gestion vs. No Suggestion on amount consumed is not signifi-
cant, F(1, 67) < 1, p = .91.
Comparing the “Loved” and “Got Sick” groups within be-
liever type, we find that the “Loved” believers consumed sig-
nificantly more than the “Got Sick” believers, F(1, 34) = 8.64,
p < .006, ηp2 = .21. However, the “Loved” and “Got Sick”
suggestions do not lead to different consumption patterns for
nonbelievers, F(1,41) < 1, p = .62 or controls, F(1,41) < 1, p
= .37.
In this research study, we examined the effects of false sug-
gestions on confidence ratings and actual consumption by sug-
gesting to participants that they had either “Loved” drinking
white wine, or ”Got Sick” from white wine, before age 20. Our
results indicate that false suggestion about the wine experience
creates a belief that the experience occurred. This false belief,
in turn, influences behavior (here measured as actual consump-
Participants who either received a “Loved” or “Got Sick”
suggestion were more likely to increase their confidence that
the suggested event occurred before age 20, and this depended
on whether participants actually believed the suggestion. More
importantly, this increased confidence related to changes in
consumption for “Loved” believers. That is, participants who
believed the “Loved” suggestion consumed significantly more
white wine than those who did not believe this suggestion.
These findings accord well with a recent meta-analysis of all
published studies involving false food memories (Bernstein,
Scoboria, & Arnold, Unpublished data). In that analysis, the
authors found that the consequences of false memories and
beliefs depend on participants who change their ratings on the
Food History Inventory after suggestion. That study also
showed that self-reported consequences are greater for “Loved”
than for “Got Sick” suggestions.
These current findings make several key contributions to the
literature. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that
a false suggestion regarding an adult event produced elevations
in confidence similar to previous studies on childhood events.
Second, whereas previous researchers have shown that it is
possible to change a consumer’s evaluation about a product by
changing their remembered schema about the product through
false suggestions (Braun, 1999), we were able to show that a
false suggestion could alter behavior in relation to that product.
In other words, through false suggestions, we were able to in-
crease a person’s actual product consumption. Third, this is the
first study to try to increase or decrease consumption within the
same experiment, using the same critical item (white wine).
Although previous research demonstrates that people are less
likely to consume something associated with a suggestion of
having gotten sick from it (Geraerts et al., 2008; Scoboria et al.,
2008; 2012), here we found that it was easier to influence par-
ticipants’ drinking behavior by suggesting that they had loved
rather than gotten sick from drinking white wine previously.
For the believers in the “Loved” condition, a false suggestion
related to an increase in the amount of white wine consumed
relative to the controls in that condition, whereas this result did
not occur for the believers in the “Got Sick” condition.
In explaining why the believers in the “Got Sick” condition
did not show a significant decrease in the amount of wine con-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 305
sumed relative to the controls in that condition, we point to a
study using a false feedback suggestion with food. The study
with food shows that people could be led to believe that they
had gotten sick on strawberry ice cream, and subsequently re-
port avoidance of that food. However, the same suggestion does
not work with another food—chocolate chip cookies (Bernstein
et al., 2005). The authors reported that the cookie suggestion
does not increase confidence in the cookie event, nor does it
produce avoidance. Therefore, it may be harder to plant false
beliefs about frequently consumed foods compared to relatively
novel foods (such as strawberry ice cream). To produce avoid-
ance with the more common food, the possibility remains that a
stronger manipulation is necessary. The current results indicate
that the “sick” suggestion succeeded in increasing confidence
that the sick event happened. However, maybe a stronger sick
suggestion is needed to reduce consumption. Speculation dis-
cussed by Kuwabara and Pillemer (2010) indicates that the
negative experiences recounted by study participants may not
be salient enough to outweigh the collection of positive experi-
ences in memory.
It is possible that the false suggestion and subsequent belief
change may serve as a reminder to participants of other, true
past experiences related to the suggestion. However, this per-
tains to all studies that examine false memory implantation. The
very nature of the manipulation (i.e., having participants imag-
ine a prior, false experience) may lead them to recall actual
experiences. Future studies may wish to examine the extent to
which the manipulation may prompt recall of other, similar
experiences, including measurements that track qualitative re-
sponses to imagination exercises, to illuminate the role of
imagination in creating false beliefs in different subgroups.
One limitation of the current study design is that the “Loved”
and “Got Sick” suggestions were not opposites. Perhaps the
“Loved” suggestion was more general, which made participants
more likely to generate alternative, true memories of the event
which then produced increased consumption. Future studies
examining both valences could better match the specificity of
the suggestion (e.g., “enjoyed” vs. “did not enjoy”).
Finally, propensity towards feeling nostalgia (or changes in
mood that may result) may be a relevant moderator to our re-
sults. These two factors (nostalgia proneness and mood) cannot
be ruled out as possible explanations for the effects in the cur-
rent study. Examining nostalgic tendencies as a moderator may
be a fruitful avenue for future research.
What is the mechanism responsible for the effects observed
in our study? Processing fluency is the relative ease or diffi-
culty of performing a cognitive activity, and may be attributed
to preference, familiarity, and other cognitive judgments (Alter
& Oppenheimer, 2009; Mantonakis, Bernstein, & Loftus, 2011;
Whittlesea, 1993). To illustrate, asking questions may increase
the processing fluency of the target (e.g., loving white wine),
making cognitions at the time of judgment feel easier to process,
which results in changes in behavior (Janiszewski & Chandon,
2007). Some have argued that the consequences of false beliefs
and memories are also due to processing fluency (Bernstein et
al., 2005). For example, receiving a false suggestion and imag-
ining that one loved a particular food, such as asparagus, the
first time one tried it, is associated with increased belief that
this event occurred in the person’s past and increased prefer-
ence for asparagus. This increased belief likely occurs because
the false feedback primes participants to process the belief as-
sociated with the critical item, asparagus, more fluently in sub-
sequent encounters with asparagus. Participants interpret this
increased fluency as familiarity, and misattribute the familiarity
to prior experience: “I did love asparagus the first time I tried
it” and current preference ratings: “I love asparagus now”.
Similarly, in the present experiment, the suggestion about white
wine may increase the fluency with which people process the
item, white wine, in subsequent encounters. This increased flu-
ency, in turn, increases the chances that a person will come to
believe the false suggestion and alters consumption accordingly
(see Bernstein, Pernat, & Loftus, 2011). Future work should
explore the role of processing fluency in the consequences of
false beliefs by building into the design of the study measure-
ments of processing fluency.
Practical Applicatio ns
Public policy research seeks to determine how consumers
can misinterpret marketing messages, possibly leading to false
beliefs about products (Burke, DeSarbo, Oliver, & Robertson,
1988; Jacoby & Hoyer, 1982). Consumer beliefs may be espe-
cially susceptible to reconstruction in imagery-rich consumer
environments, such as web-based communication interfaces be-
tween firms and consumers (e.g., blogs; Lakshmanan & Krish-
nan, 2009). The current findings apply to this policy issue.
Marketers use various methods, including autobiographical re-
ferencing, to remind consumers about past experiences. Adver-
tisements for product-related experiences at Disneyland, Swiss
Chalet restaurants, and wineries use such methods, and cue
consumers to imagine their past experiences associated with the
product. Recent research suggests that listening to an imagery-
evoking radio ad may lead consumers to believe falsely that
they had experience with the brand featured in the ad (Raja-
gopal & Montgomery, 2011). Our results demonstrate that a)
such subtle suggestions create false beliefs in some consumers,
and b) there may be behavioral consequences to such false be-
liefs, which policy makers should consider.
A final point to note is the ethical issue of increasing any
behavior, such as drinking alcohol, or any other potentially
harmful behavior that a consumer may exhibit, either a) as part
of false memory studies or b) as part of advertising and mar-
keting campaigns in general. As for our first point, we fully
debrief participants at the end of our studies and make them
aware of the false memory literature and the associations be-
tween false memories and subsequent behavior. To our knowl-
edge, no one has experienced long term negative consequences
as a result of participating in these studies. However, research-
ers may wish to consider the impact that participation in such
studies has on individuals (see Otgaar, Scoboria, & Smeets,
2012). As for our second point, future research may wish to
focus on ways to help consumers overcome such possible be-
havioral consequences (LaTour & LaTour, 2010). For starters,
perhaps the findings that we report here can be used as an edu-
cational tool to equip policy makers and consumers alike re-
garding certain marketing tactics that may increase potentially
harmful behaviors. Indeed, such awareness has already led to
certain regulation changes on cigarette advertising that prohib-
its promotion of a tobacco product if any of its brand elements
is displayed on a nontobacco product or is used with a service,
if the nontobacco product or service is appealing to young per-
sons or promotes a glamorous lifestyle (Department of Justice,
n.d.). Once more work has been done on how behaviors can be
manipulated by altering beliefs about consumers’ past experi-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
ences, we will need to think about whether such activities will
also demand regulation.
The authors thank Joey Hoegg, University of British Colum-
bia, and Reid Hastie, University of Chicago Booth School of
Business, for comments on an early version of this manuscript.
This research was also supported by an Undergraduate Student
Research Award to Amanda Wudarzewski from the Natural
Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Dr. Cli-
fasefi would like to acknowledge the National Institutes of
Health/ National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse (#T32
AA07455 and #F32 AA015240) for partially supporting her
time in this research endeavor.
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