Kurt Munz is an assistant professor of marketing at Bocconi University. He takes an experimental approach to research in consumer behavior, focusing on consumer judgment and decision making.

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Publications  (Click for abstract / download options)

Mohsenin, Shahryar and Kurt P. Munz (2024) , “Gender-Ambiguous Voices and Social Disfluency,” Psychological Science, 35 (5), 543–557.

  2021 Bocconi Junior Research Grant

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Recently, gender-ambiguous (non-binary) voices have been added to voice assistants to combat gender stereotypes and foster inclusion. However, if people react negatively to such voices, these laudable efforts may be counterproductive. In five preregistered studies (N = 3,684) we find that people do react negatively, rating products described by narrators with gender-ambiguous voices less favorably than when they are described by clearly male or female narrators. The voices create a feeling of unease, what we call social disfluency, that affects evaluations of the products being described. These effects are best explained by low familiarity with voices that sound ambiguous. Thus, initial negative reactions can be overcome with more exposure.

Morwitz, Vicki G. and Kurt P. Munz (2021) , “Intentions,” Consumer Psychology Review, 4 (1), 26-41.

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Intentions are one of the most widely used constructs in consumer research. We review over 50 years of research that has helped us understand what intentions are, their antecedents and consequences, and how best to measure and use them as a proxy for or predictor of behavior. We define intentions and differentiate them from other closely relatedly psychological constructs. We review several psychological theories where intentions play a central role and highlight what is known about the strength of the intentions-behavior relationship, and factors that moderate the strength of that relationship. We also review more methodological research and discuss what is known about how to best measure intentions and use them to predict behavior. Finally, we suggest opportunities for continued research on intentions and discuss their continued relevance in a world of big data.

Munz, Kurt P. , Minah H. Jung, and Adam L. Alter (2020) , “Name Similarity Encourages Generosity: A Field Experiment in Email Personalization,” Marketing Science, 39 (6), 1071-1091.

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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

“Disfluency Increases Reliance on Heuristic Cues in Consumer Choice,” by Shahryar Mohsenin and Kurt Munz. Invited for revision & resubmission at the Journal of Consumer Research.


 

This research shows that when information is difficult to process (or disfluent), consumers tend to simplify their decision-making process by using mental shortcuts (or heuristics) instead of carefully processing all available information. In other words, they rely more heavily on factors like brand, country of origin, customer review ratings, or recommendations. This tendency is especially strong when under time-pressure and when a heuristic cue appears credible. The findings challenge previous research on disfluency and dual processing modes and add to our understanding of brands and recommendations.

“Not-so Easy Listening: How Listening to Options Affects Product Choice and Evaluation,” by Kurt Munz and Vicki Morwitz. Under review.

  2023 Bocconi Junior Research Grant

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New technologies like voice assistants have the potential to change the landscape of shopping, but despite optimistic forecasts, voice shopping has not seen the expected growth. This research investigates why consumers might find it challenging to make judgments and decisions based on auditory information compared to visual text. The results suggest that the difficulty arises when consumers need to make comparisons, as listening to speech requires holding more information in memory for this task. This difficulty can lead to a higher reliance on easily understandable information (high-evaluability information) when listening to speech (e.g., a recommendation or a “like new” product description), but it can also result in lower overall purchase rates. To address this issue, a strategy to improve the customer experience when voice shopping by reducing memory load was tested on voice speakers in consumers’ homes, resulting in higher purchase intentions.

“Bounded Rationalization: The Role of Acceptance in Post-Choice and Post-Assignment Rationalization,” by Kurt Munz, Adam Eric Greenberg, and Vicki Morwitz.

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This paper proposes a novel perspective on the psychological process of rationalizing choices. It argues that rationalization does not arise from the act of choosing, but rather from accepting the outcome, characterized by the degree to which it feels resolved and settled. It builds on a dissonance-reduction account of rationalization, where, once a choice has been made, unfavorable features of a chosen alternative become inconsistent with the choice, and the resulting cognitive dissonance motivates the chooser to downplay the importance of those features and form a more favorable view of the chosen alternative. This idea is extended to suggest that a similar feature-level inconsistency can motivate rationalization for outcomes that were not personally selected, provided there is acceptance of the outcome. This paper introduces acceptance as a critical moderator of rationalization, demonstrating that the degree of acceptance moderates the extent of rationalization for both choices and assignments, with higher acceptance leading to more rationalization. This conceptualization allows for the exploration of factors that influence acceptance of outcomes. Potential antecedents such as the finality of the outcome, freedom to choose or reject the outcome, and consent to the outcome-determining process are discussed. Finally, this perspective broadens the scope of dissonance theory. While early theorists considered free choice as a necessary condition for dissonance effects, the results challenge this view.

Conference Presentations

Liu, Yongkun and Kurt P. Munz (2024), “When Option Order Primacy Disappears: The Role of Presentation Order of Loss and Gain,” talk presented at the European Marketing Academy Conference Bucharest.

Research confirms the option order primacy effect across various fields. To aid consumers in making informed choices, we propose reversing the sequence of loss/gain information presentation, eliminating the primacy effect. Experiments suggest attention and fluency aren’t the sole mechanisms. This intervention offers a distinctive solution to decision biases.

Munz, Kurt P. and Vicki G. Morwitz (2024), “Not-so Easy Listening: How Listening to Options Affects Product Choice and Evaluation,” special session presented at the Society for Consumer Psychology Conference Nashville, TN.

Five experiments (N=3,325) reveal that listening to options (vs. reading them) is harder for consumers when they must rely on memory to evaluate options, as when making comparisons. This difficulty when listening can reduce consumers’ purchase likelihood, and it can shift their choices, as they focus on easily understandable product descriptions such as “like new” or “recommended” when listening versus reading. Listening presents challenges due to speech’s ephemeral nature, placing a higher burden on memory. However, an experiment using voice speakers in consumers’ homes demonstrates a speech format that reduces memory burden and improves purchase likelihood by facilitating effective comparisons.

Liu, Yongkun and Kurt P. Munz (2023), “When Option Order Primacy Disappears: The Role of Presentation Order of Loss and Gain,” working paper presented at the Ninth Mediterranean Consumer Behavior Symposium Conference Milan.

We observed a primacy effect such that riskier options were chosen more frequently when they were presented first only when gain attributes were described before loss attributes for each option. Future studies will explore the mechanism for this pattern, which may be related to differences in attention assigned to loss and gain.

Mohsenin, Shahryar and Kurt P. Munz (2023), “Gender-Ambiguous Voices and Social Disfluency,” competitive paper presented at the Association for Consumer Research Conference Seattle, WA.

People rate products described by narrators with gender-ambiguous voices less favorably than when they are described by clearly male or female narrators due to social disfluency—an uneasy feeling related to difficulty understanding the gender of the speaker. These effects can be eliminated by increasing familiarity with the voices.

Mohsenin, Shahryar and Kurt P. Munz (2023), “Gender-Ambiguous Voices and Social Disfluency in Product Judgments,” paper presented at the European Association for Consumer Research Conference Amsterdam.

In six studies (N=1,819), people rated products described by narrators with gender-ambiguous voices less favorably than when they were described by clearly male or female narrators due to social disfluency (difficulty understanding the gender of the narrator). These initial automatic negative reactions could be overcome by increasing exposure.

Liu, Yongkun and Kurt P. Munz (2023), “When Product Order Primacy Disappears: The Role of Presentation Order of Loss and Gain,” poster presented at the European Association for Consumer Research Conference Amsterdam.

Financial advisors or insurance sellers often need to decide which product and what information to introduce first. In this research, we demonstrate that the primacy effect (consumers choose the first presented option) in sequentially presented products can be easily reduced by reversing the presentation order of loss and gain attributes.

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Melzner, Johann , Andrea Bonezzi, and Kurt P. Munz (2023), “Voice Technology: Implications of Oral versus Manual Communication for Consumer Research,” Roundtable presented at the Society for Consumer Psychology Conference San Juan, PR.

With the advent of voice technology, consumers increasingly interact with technological devices orally (i.e., by speaking) rather than manually (i.e., by typing, clicking, and touching). This roundtable aims to examine how this shift from manual to oral communication with technology influences consumer behavior. We will discuss fundamental conceptual differences between oral and manual communication, methodological challenges of studying cross-modality effects in interactions with technology, and avenues for future research.

Melzner, Johann, Andrea Bonezzi, Jonah Berger, Christian Hildebrand, Mansur Khamitov, Anne-Kathrin Klesse, David Luna, Shiri Melumad, Vicki G. Morwitz, Kurt P. Munz, Demi Oba, Massimiliano Ostinelli, Aner Sela, and Ana Valenzuela

Mohsenin, Shahryar and Kurt P. Munz (2022), “Disfluency Activates Heuristic Reasoning,” Paper presented at the 8th Mediterranean Symposium for Consumer Behavior Research Conference Madrid.

  Best Student Presentation

Contrary to previous findings on the association between disfluency and information processing, three preregistered studies demonstrate that disfluency causes consumers to simplify difficult-seeming decisions by using heuristics. The results demonstrate that disfluency leads to a greater reliance on “heuristic” reasoning where consumers utilize information such as a brand name or a recommendation to make their choice. This tendency to rely on heuristic information in the face of disfluency is more pronounced among decision-makers high in Need for Cognition.

Mohsenin, Shahryar and Kurt P. Munz (2022), “Social-Processing Fluency in Voice-Based Judgment,” Poster presented at the Society for Judgment and Decision Making Annual Conference Conference Virtual.

Does using a gender-neutral voice affect information processing and product judgment? Processing Fluency literature says the difficulty in information processing leads to the negative judgment of the information and product presented in that information at the metacognitive level. While research in this area has involved textual information, scant research attention on fluency has been paid to the social nature of communication. We investigate a novel concept, “social-processing fluency”, related to the ease or difficulty of identifying the demographic information about the source of voice information (i.e., gender) used to determine social categorization.

Mohsenin & Munz 2022 SJDM

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Munz, Kurt P. and Vicki G. Morwitz (2020), “Not-so Easy Listening: Roots and Repercussions of Auditory Choice Difficulty in Voice Commerce,” Special Session Paper presented at the Association for Consumer Research Conference Virtual.

Six experiments demonstrate that choosing from options presented by voice (versus text) increases the cognitive burden on consumers (due to difficulty making comparisons), leading them to choose recommended items more often but also to defer choice at higher rates. Auditory consumers focus on context-independent “evaluable” product features to guide judgment.

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 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 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.