May 8, 2014 - If you are sending Mother's Day flowers to your mom this weekend, chances are you opted for guaranteed delivery: the promise that they will arrive by a certain time. Should the flowers not arrive in time, you will likely feel betrayed by the sender for breaking their promise. But if they arrive earlier, you likely will be no happier than if they arrive on time, according to new research. The new work suggests that we place such a high premium on keeping a promise that exceeding it confers little or no additional benefit.
Whether we make them with a person or company, promises are social contracts, says Ayelet Gneezy of the University of California, San Diego. While researchers have explored the negative consequences of breaking promises, until now, they have not explored what happens when someone exceeds a promise.
Gneezy became interested in the topic when thinking about how consumers respond to promises made by firms. "My first memory in that respect is that of Amazon's tendency to exceed its promise with respect to delivery time that is, packages always arrived earlier than promised and my lack of appreciation of the 'gesture'/fact," Gneezy says.
Gneezy, with colleague Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, set out to explore "promise exceeding" in a series of experiments that tested imagined, recalled, and actual promise-making. In one of the experiments, for example, researchers asked participants to recall three promises: one broken, one kept, and one exceeded. They then asked them to rate how happy they were with the promise-maker's behavior.
While participants valued keeping a promise much more highly than breaking one, exceeding the promise conferred virtually no additional happiness with the promise-maker, as published today in Social Psychological and Personality Science. Additionally, in a follow-up experiment, participants said that exceeding a promise d
|Contact: Lisa M.P. Munoz|