Canadian researcher focuses on how word-of-mouth stories influence our feelings concerning our experiences, insisting that our emotions change when we share them.
Sarah Moore said that when the storyteller analyzes or thinks about an emotional experience like a family vacation, it reduces the emotions, positive or negative, about the event.
However, she noted that for practical experiences, such as buying and using a USB stick, analysing and thinking more about the experience will amplify our feelings about it, be they positive or negative.
Moore, an assistant professor with the Alberta School of Business, said this is one important area of consumer research that remains virtually unexplored.
"Nobody had ever asked, 'What happens to me if I tell you that the restaurant I went to last night was fantastic?' We know that this makes you, the recipient of word of mouth, more likely to go to the restaurant, but what does it do to my feelings about the restaurant, as the storyteller? It's an important question because it's going to determine, for example, whether I go back to the restaurant and whether I'm likely to ever tell anyone else the story," said Moore.
"It can affect both the consumer's actual behaviour and future word of mouth."
She said that when we have an emotional experience, such as travelling or watching a movie, we develop feelings about those experiences.
When telling stories about these experiences later, we can describe them and express our appreciation or dislike for them-but once we start to analyse them, the lustre of that emotion fades.
Moore said it is similar to work that clinical psychologists have done to help people overcome traumatic experiences by analysing and processing them.
Thus, thinking about a negative experience may mean giving that restaurant with bad service a second try. But for positive experiences, the best thing is not to think too much.
"There's a saying that you should never ask anyone why they love you. This is true-don't do it. You shouldn't be rationalizing or analyzing that feeling because the more you do, the more it fades," she said.
"If you have a positive emotion that you'd like to preserve, don't think about 'why'. Just relive it," she added.
On the other hand, Moore said, analysing utilitarian experiences only reinforces our feelings and beliefs about those experiences.
The difference is that these experiences are related to things that have a specific purpose; they tend to be more cognitive than emotional.
For example, using tax software, driving a commuter vehicle or taking an airplane ride will each elicit positive or negative feelings. And the more we think about what we did or didn't like about these practical experiences, the more certain we will feel about whether to use the product or service again.