Researchers at the Stanford University have found that while out on a shopping trip, men go for direct shopping i.e. specific items and only what is needed, whereas women tend to browse the shop leisurely and "see what's out there," before making any purchases.
"Many men tend to be "purpose driven" when clothes shopping (they shop for specific items and only when they are needed), whereas many women tend to be "possibility driven (they browse and shop to "see what's out there")," the researchers said.
The team conducted two experiments and found significant differences between the way men and women subconsciously react after exposure to certain objects.
"Across two experiments, we demonstrated strong differences in choice behaviors resulting from the same prime. As a result, the same stimulus can lead to divergent behaviors among identifiable groups that occur without their intention or awareness," write lead authors S. Christian Wheeler and Jonah Berger.
In the first experiment, the researchers examined how clothes shopping influences subsequent choices. They found that men who were exposed to the idea of shopping for a new wardrobe became much more focused on the end result in a subsequent (ostensibly unrelated) task of plotting a route for a cross-country trip, tending to choose the most direct route. In contrast, women exposed to clothes shopping were far more willing to take the scenic route.
"These findings are consistent with the pretested personal associations men and women generally have with clothes shopping and support the account that the primes affected behavior by activating their different personal associations," the researchers said.
In the second experiment, Wheeler and Berger examined how thinking about attending a party could influence the choices of extroverts and introverts. They found that having to think about attending a party made introverts much more likely to choose "low-arousal items" in subsequent decisions (e.g., a comfort food cookbook vs. a spicy food cookbook, or a coupon for take-out vs. dine-in), whereas it had no effect on the choices of extroverts.
"The present research shows that a single prime is capable of generating diverse, and sometimes opposite, effects on consumer choice, depending on the specific personal associations people have with the prime," the researchers said.
"Considering the diversity of behaviors that can result from exposure to a single stimulus suggests not only the importance of nonconscious influences on consumer behavior, but also the necessity of accounting for diversity across consumers," they added.
The study is published in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.