This research examines the effect of experiencing messiness, induced by a messy environment or by priming the concept of messiness, on consumers. We propose that messiness is an aversive state and consumers are motivated to attenuate this state by seeking simplicity in their cognitions, preferences, and choices. Six experiments support our theorizing. Experiments 1a-1c (conducted in the laboratory) and experiment 2 (conducted in the field) demonstrate that when messiness is salient, consumers form simpler product categorizations, are willing to pay more for a t-shirt with a simple picture, and seek less variety in their choices. Experiment 3 brings additional evidence for the underlying role of the need for simplicity by showing that when the need for simplicity is satiated, the effects of messiness disappear. A final experiment shows a boundary condition of the messiness effect: political conservatives are more susceptible to messiness primes compared to liberals.

ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal of Consumer Research
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Liu, J., Smeesters, D., & Trampe, D. (2012). Effects of Messiness on Preferences for Simplicity. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(1), 199–214. doi:10.1086/662139