Ever wondered why a product becomes more desirable if an attractive member of the opposite sex is selling it? Well, now researchers at University of Alberta have proved that there's science to back up that perception.
In the study, researchers found that clothing was rated more desirable if it had been touched or worn by an attractive member of the opposite sex. And some people said they would pay more for the item, even if it hadn't been washed.
"We found that if a shirt had been touched by someone who is highly attractive and of the opposite gender, the shoppers evaluated the products higher and they're willing to drop more money on it," said University of Alberta Business Professor Jennifer Argo.
Researchers wanted to find out if there were ever instances where contact, also called contagion, could have a positive effect on the goods for sale.
The first part of the study involved sending men and women to a store to try on a specific unisex shirt. The experimenter called a colleague acting as a salesperson at the store ahead of time to notify them when a participant was to arrive.
When the participant showed a picture of the shirt to the salesperson, they were told the last one was being tried on by another shopper currently in the change room - half the time someone with average looks and half the time a hired model.
When the change room was vacated, the participant - who had seen the person exit the change room - could then try on the shirt and return to the study base to complete an evaluation.
"If the shopper was of average attractiveness, the participant evaluated the shirt negatively. But if it was the opposite gender and they were highly attractive, the participants were willing to pay more. The results show that it's worth having highly attractive people work there. Or if you can't, at least have the staff dress well and be well-groomed and maximize their potential," Jennifer said.
In the second part of the study, the researchers examined why the evaluations were different but used only male participants and female salespeople, again half of average attractiveness and half models. The men were sent to try on a shirt, but this time the salesperson told them that she had worn it on her prior shift.
Sometimes, the salesperson showed the item in a dry-cleaning bag, but the other half of the time it was on a hanger, implying it hadn't been cleaned.
They were later asked to evaluate how much they would pay for the shirt, how much they liked it, the likelihood of purchasing the product and how desirable it was to them.
"The dirty shirt won for the men when the salesperson was highly attractive. It's like they were trying to get her essence," Jennifer said.
She said that the findings were only slightly surprising even though this is the first research to identify and document positive contagion.
The study will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research.