Competition changes how people view strangers online

Washington, Aug. 13 (ANI): An anonymous stranger you encounter on websites like Yelp or Amazon may seem to be just like you, and a potential friend. But a stranger on a site like eBay is a whole different story.

A new study finds that on websites where people compete against each other, assumptions about strangers change.

Previous research has shown that people have a bias toward thinking that strangers they encounter online are probably just like them.

But when they are competitors, strangers are seen as different, and not sharing your traits and values - and that changes how people act, said Rebecca Walker Naylor, co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

"When you're competing against people you don't know, you actually bid much more aggressively than you might normally, because you assume that these strangers aren't similar to you," she said.

"You feel you have the license to bid aggressively because the other bidders aren't like you and you don't have to be nice to them."

Naylor said the results should serve as a caution for people who shop on auction sites like eBay.

"You need to be aware that, whether you mean to or not, you will naturally see other anonymous bidders as different from you. That will get the competitive juices flowing and you might end up paying more than you really want," she said.

Naylor conducted the study with Cait Poynor Lamberton of the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, and David Norton at the University of Connecticut.

Their findings appear in the August 2013 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

In several related experiments, the researchers conducted simulated online auctions in which people thought they were bidding for products like a popular energy drink.

In some cases, the study participants knew they were similar - or dissimilar - from the people they were bidding against, while other times they didn't know anything about their competitors.

In one study, college students were told they would be bidding on a bottle of Five Hour Energy Drink. They were then shown one of three profiles of a "representative" bidder they were competing against. In one profile, the bidder was demographically similar to the participant. A second profile featured a profile that was demographically different.

The third profile was ambiguous, so these participants couldn't tell how similar they were to their competition.

Before the bidding, the researchers primed some participants for competition by having them complete a word search involving words describing competition, such as "battle," "challenge" and "contend."

As expected, the participants' bid was lowest - 75 cents-when they competed against someone similar to themselves. When they were bidding against people who were not like them, their high bid went up to $1.22.

But the bid was highest when the participant competed against an anonymous person - all the way to $1.28.

"They automatically assumed that if they didn't know anything about this person they were bidding against, it must be someone who is not like them," Naylor said. "That's different from how people approach strangers on other websites."

The results were confirmed in another study involving students from the University of South Carolina. Half the students were told they would be bidding on a site called "eBay Auctions," while the other half were told they were bidding on the site "Gamecock Auctions." The mascot of South Carolina is the Gamecocks, so participants were given the impression that other bidders on that site were also likely affiliated with their university.

They were then given profiles of a competing bidder who was similar, dissimilar or ambiguous.

"When you're competing against people you don't know, you actually bid much more aggressively than you might normally, because you assume that these strangers aren't similar to you."

Results showed that participants were least aggressive in their bidding against similar competitors and most aggressive against dissimilar competitors, regardless of which website they were on.

When it came to the ambiguous competitors whom they didn't know much about, participants competed aggressively against their rival on eBay, but not so much if the bidding occurred on Gamecock Auctions.

In fact, the researchers asked participants to rate how similar they were to their competing bidder. When they didn't have much information on their competitor, they still rated themselves as similar when they competed on Gamecock Auctions. But they rated these ambiguous competitors as dissimilar when they were on eBay.

"Participants assumed that anyone they competed against on Gamecock Auctions must share their affiliation with the University of South Carolina, and so must be like them," Naylor said. "That led them to be a little less aggressive in their bidding."

The researchers also conducted studies in which they varied the quality of the brand that the participants bid on, and how much participants knew about the seller.

"Our results held true regardless of the other factors we manipulated," she said. "When they are competing online, people treat anonymous others like they are different from them."

Naylor said people should be aware of these tendencies when they bid for items online, so they don't pay more than they want. But they can also use this knowledge to their advantage.

For example, these results suggest consumers may get better deals on specialty websites that cater to the product they want.

If you're a fan of Harry Potter merchandise, you may get a better deal on a site dedicated to fans, because sellers and other bidders will assume everyone on that site is like them and shares their interest. That may lead to less aggressive bidding than on a general site like eBay, Naylor said. (ANI)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

On Now: Chennai Super Kings vs Delhi Daredevils

On Now: Chennai Super Kings vs Delhi Daredevils

IPL7, MATCH 8—Chennai bat. Hilfenhaus, Manhas, Ishwar in; Delhi unchanged. More »

Bowling worries for Super Kings

Bowling worries for Super Kings

After failing to defend a mammoth 205 against Kings XI Punjab, Chennai have a lot to think about. More »

T20 test for Cheteshwar Pujara

T20 test for Cheteshwar Pujara

The class act from Saurashtra may have to rethink his approach to the mannerless format. More »

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years: Manohar

BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years: Manohar

The former BCCI president says he was "disillusioned" by the happenings at the emergent working committee meeting on Sunday. More »

Special meeting to replace Srinivasan

Special meeting to replace Srinivasan

The BCCI is likely to convene a special general body meeting (SGM) in May to replace N Srinivasan on the board's disciplinary committee. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Roach escapes injury after car crash

Roach escapes injury after car crash

The West Indies fast bowler lost control of his BMW sedan due to slippery road conditions in his native Barbados on Saturday. More »

Repose faith in Indian coaches

Repose faith in Indian coaches

All of them cost plenty of dollars which I feel is unnecessary for a two- month tournament, says former cricketer Yajurvindra Singh. More »

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

The former CBI Director is one of the three candidates proposed by the BCCI to head the enquiry into the IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal. More »

Cook relieved after period in limbo

Cook relieved after period in limbo

The England captain is looking forward to a fresh start after a dispiriting Ashes defeat last year. More »

[INTERVIEW] Jayawardene and Sangakkara

[INTERVIEW] Jayawardene and Sangakkara

Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara go over their World T20 win, and feel grateful to have fans whose support remains unwavering in victory and de… More »

Need to improve fielding: Ashwin

Need to improve fielding: Ashwin

[T20 Newsline] Lacklustre Super Kings, fast-improving Sanju Samson and other news from IPL-7. More »

Aussie coach joins emerging Afghanistan

Aussie coach joins emerging Afghanistan

Peter Anderson has started work in Kabul as the fast-developing team prepare for their debut at next year's World Cup. More »

Chaos threatens to engulf SL again

Chaos threatens to engulf SL again

As Lanka's head coach decides to jump ship, euphoria over winning an ICC tournament has dissipated into fuistration. More »

Jayasuriya unhappy at Farbrace conduct

Jayasuriya unhappy at Farbrace conduct

Sri Lanka's chief selector is upset at news of head coach Paul Farbrace's possible move to England. More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusiast.” More »

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »