Kurt Munz

Kurt Munz researches consumer behavior. Beginning fall 2020, he will be an assistant professor of marketing at Bocconi University. His research often focuses on the influence of new technology on consumer judgment and decision making.

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Publications

Munz, Kurt P., Minah H. Jung, and Adam L. Alter (2020) , “Name Similarity Encourages Generosity: A Field Experiment in Email Personalization,” Marketing Science, forthcoming.

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In a randomized field experiment with the education charitable giving platform DonorsChoose.org (N = 30,297), we examined email personalization using a potential donor’s name. We measured the effectiveness of matching potential donors to specific teachers in need based on surname, surname initial letters, gender, ethnicity, and surname country of origin. Full surname matching was most effective, with potential donors being more likely to open an email, click on a link in the email, and donate to a teacher who shared their own surname. They also donated more money overall. Our results suggest that uniting people with shared names is an effective individual-level approach to email personalization. Potential donors who shared a surname first-letter but not an entire name with teachers also behaved more generously. We discuss how using a person’s name in marketing communications may capture attention and bridge social distance

Working Papers

“Not-so Easy Listening: Roots and Repercussions of Auditory Choice Difficulty in Voice Commerce” by Kurt Munz and Vicki Morwitz. invited revision at Journal of Consumer Research.

  2018 Center for Global Economy and Business Grant

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In the context of voice shopping, fifteen experiments demonstrate that information presented by voice can be more difficult to process than the same information presented in writing. Consequently, auditory consumers who shop by voice are less able to differentiate between choice options, leading them to choose recommended items more often, but also defer choice at higher rates compared to when the options are presented visually. This auditory choice difficulty stems from greater difficulty comparing auditory options and is related to an increased burden on working memory. Because the difficulty is related to making comparisons, a joint-evaluation—where an option is considered in the context of others—is more likely to be impacted by voice presentation than a separate-evaluation, and joint versus separate preference reversals are less likely by voice. However, voice presentation can negatively affect the evaluation of even a single item when a consumer compares it against a remembered item, a common scenario in the actual marketplace for tasks such as re-orders. Describing choice options in a way that reduces the burden on memory for auditory consumers can reduce processing difficulty and its downstream consequences.

“Spreading of Alternatives Without A Perception of Choice” by Kurt Munz and Vicki Morwitz.

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Choosing something improves a person’s attitude toward it, a classic example of behavior affecting attitudes. Three studies re-examine the causal role of behavior in this “post-choice spreading of alternatives” phenomenon, demonstrating that neither the behavior of choosing nor the self-perception of having made a choice is required for it to occur. A rationalization process similar to the one that follows from actively choosing can occur whenever someone merely accepts an outcome as a true state of affairs. When a person accepts an externally assigned outcome, the negative features of that outcome no longer seem as important, allowing attitudes to improve. People normally accept outcomes they have personally chosen, but they may also accept outcomes they neither chose nor could reject. Thus, we question the causal role of behavior in a classic phenomenon. This finding contradicts explanations for post-choice spreading based on self-perception theory, where people learn their attitudes from their own voluntary behaviors. Though future work would be needed to confirm, we also discuss potential implications for cognitive dissonance theory, suggesting that agency over choice may not be prerequisite for dissonance, as previously believed. Relaxing this prerequisite expands the scope of phenomena to which dissonance theory could potentially apply.

Selected Work in Progress

“Losing Fast or Slow? Preferences for Uncertainty Resolution” by Kurt Munz and Alixandra Barasch.

Is losing better resolved quickly, or does holding onto hope for a positive outcome improve an otherwise negative experience? In other words, if you knew for sure that you would lose, would you prefer to know earlier (perhaps to get the bad news over with), or would you prefer to learn later in the contest (perhaps taking some consolation in fighting until the end)? Across four studies, we observed that consumers preferred to lose more slowly (later in the game) when presented a choice between fast and slow (studies 1 and 2) and when compared to winning (all studies). We also replicated the pattern in a naturalistic setting involving March Madness basketball (study 4). Finally, we showed that playing the game led to changes in preferences to favor earlier resolution, regardless of the outcome (studies 3 and 4), a pattern not well-predicted by existing theory.

Conference Presentations

Munz, Kurt P., and Vicki G. Morwitz (2019), “Not-so Easy Listening: Roots and Repercussions of Auditory Choice Difficulty in Voice Commerce,” Paper presented at the Society for Judgment and Decision Making Conference Montreal, Canada.

Six experiments demonstrate that information presented by voice is more difficult to process than the same information in writing. As a result, auditory choosers are less able to differentiate choice options, leading them to choose recommended items more often, but also to defer choice at higher rates. Difficulty making comparisons contributes to these effects, reducing the impact of certain context effects. Voice presentation also negatively affects evaluations of single items when compared against a salient reference in memory, and thus may have important ramifications for decision makers using digital voice assistants for shopping.

Munz, Kurt P., and Vicki G. Morwitz (2018), “Spreading of Alternatives Without a Perception of Choice,” Paper presented at the Society for Judgment and Decision Making Annual Conference Conference New Orleans, LA.

Choosing an option leads to more favorable attitudes toward that option compared to before choice. Three studies demonstrate that
this “post choice spreading of alternatives” may not require choice at all. Spreading depends on accepting an outcome, rather than on
the behavior of choosing or self-perception of having chosen. People normally accept the outcomes of their own choices, but they can
also accept outcomes they did not have personal agency to choose or the freedom to reject. Higher outcome acceptance predicts
greater post-outcome attitude change.

Munz, Kurt P., Minah H. Jung, and Adam L. Alter (2018), “Name Similarity Encourages Generosity: A Field Experiment in Email Personalization,” Poster presented at the Society for Judgment and Decision Making Annual Conference Conference New Orleans, LA.

In a randomized email field experiment with DonorsChoose.org (N = 30,297), donors who shared a surname with a teacher were more likely to open, click, donate, and donated more to the teacher’s classroom. Different-surname donors were also more generous when they shared a first-letter with the requesting teacher. We quantify various components of similarity including matches on full name, initial name letters, gender, ethnicity, and country of origin.

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Munz, Kurt P., and Vicki G. Morwitz (2018), “Spreading of Alternatives Without a Perception of Choice,” Competitive paper presented at the Association for Consumer Research Annual Conference Dallas, TX.

Choosing an option leads to more favorable attitudes toward that option compared to before choice. Three studies demonstrate that this “post choice spreading of alternatives” may not require choice at all. Spreading depends on accepting an outcome, rather than on the behavior of choosing or self-perception of having chosen.

Munz, Kurt P., and Alixandra Barasch (2018), “Losing Fast or Slow? Preferences for Uncertainty Resolution,” Special session paper presented at the Association for Consumer Research Annual Conference Dallas, TX.

Is losing better resolved quickly, or does holding onto hope for a positive outcome improve an otherwise negative experience? In three lab studies and one field study, consumers preferred to learn that they would lose later in a game compared to winning, but changed their preference after playing the game.

Munz, Kurt P., Minah H. Jung, and Adam L. Alter (2018), “Name Similarity Encourages Generosity: A Field Experiment in Email Personalization,” Symposium presented at the Society for Consumer Psychology Conference Dallas, TX.

In a randomized field experiment with DonorsChoose.org (N = 30,297), potential donors who shared a surname with a teacher were more likely to open, click, donate, and donated more to the teacher’s classroom in response to an email request. We highlight how overtly personalizing an email to highlight a recipient’s identity can be effective to persuade them to donate to charity. Controlling for ethnicity, we also find that different-surname donors were more generous when they shared a surname first-letter with a requesting teacher.

Munz, Kurt P., and Vicki G. Morwitz (2018), “Spreading of Alternatives Without A Perception of Choice,” Individual paper presented at the Society for Consumer Psychology Conference Dallas, TX.

Choosing a product leads to more favorable attitudes toward it (and more negative attitudes toward rejected options) compared to before a choice. This “post-choice spreading of alternatives” has been explained in terms of cognitive dissonance theory. Researchers have recently claimed that only a perception of having made a choice (vs. actual choice) is required for this spreading effect. We demonstrate in three experiments that even this perception is not necessary: spreading of alternatives can occur absent choice or a perception of having chosen. Thus, self-perceiving choice agency may not be prerequisite for dissonance, as previously believed.

Munz, Kurt P., Minah H. Jung, and Adam L. Alter (2017), “Charitable Giving to Teachers with the Same Name: A Field Experiment,” Special session presented at the Association for Consumer Research Conference San Diego, CA.

In a randomized email field experiment with DonorsChoose.org (N = 30,302), donors who shared a surname with a teacher were more likely to open, click, donate, and donated more to the teacher’s classroom. Different-surname donors were also more generous when they shared a first-letter with the requesting teacher.

Munz, Kurt P., and Priya Raghubir (2016), “Sorting As Screening,” Poster presented at the Society for Consumer Psychology Conference St. Petersburg, FL.

Sorting by a product attribute can diminish the importance weight of that attribute. When choosing is difficult, consumers may treat sorting as screening. Once options are sorted, consumers may form a consideration set comprising the options at the top. Because these options are more homogeneous with respect to the sorted attribute, consumers pay less attention to the sorted attribute in favor of a second attribute. This attentional shift emerges in a subsequent conjoint analysis, with less weight placed on the sorted attribute and more weight on a second attribute.

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