People tend to see products that are grouped close together as being "contagious" find a team of Indian-origin researchers in the US.
Consumer psychologists Arul Mishra and Himanshu Mishra, from the University of Utah, and Dhananjay Nayakankuppam, from the University of Iowa, say that their study suggests that the way objects are grouped together can have a significant impact on the decisions people make.
They came to this conclusion after carrying out two experiments.
In the first experiment, volunteers had to select a mug from one of two groups. The wrapped-up mugs were spaced far apart in one group, while those in the other group were closer together.
The researchers told some of the volunteers that one of the mugs was defective, while the other volunteers were told that one of the mugs contained a gift coupon.
The volunteers who were told that one of the mugs contained a gift coupon selected from the mugs that were close together. Conversely, the volunteers who were informed that one of the mugs was defective chose from the group of mugs that were spaced far apart.
In a follow-up experiment, volunteers had to choose among ketchup bottles. Some of them were told that either one or three of the bottles had defective lids, while the remaining participants were told that either one or three of the bottles contained gift coupons.
The volunteers who were told that three of the bottles had defective lids were the most likely to choose from the spaced apart group, and the volunteers who thought that three of the bottles contained gift coupons were the most likely to choose from the closely spaced group.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that people tend to view products that are grouped close together as being "contagious".
They say that if one of the products has a prominent good or bad quality, people will see that quality as spreading among other objects which are close by, a phenomenon known as the "group-contagion effect".
According to them, their findings suggest that people tend "to choose from groups of closely arranged products in the gain domain and from groups of widely spaced products in the loss domain."
A research article on this study has been published in the journal Psychological Science.