Why do we make recommendations to others? Are we simply being altruistic? Are we trying to help our friends, perhaps by sharing information and knowledge that we have acquired so that others can avoid the mistakes we have made? New research suggests that another key motivation may drive our desire to recommend products and services to others. Scholars Andrea Bonezzi, Alessandro Peluso, Matteo Deangelis, and Derek Rucker have conducted a series of experimental studies that challenge our assumptions about the motivations behind recommendations.
In their studies, they examined how people chose the amount and type of automobile insurance to purchase. This task often proves challenging and difficult for many consumers. The scholars found that individuals are more likely to offer advice to others if they feel insecure about the decision themselves. In short, people have a need for control. When they feel a loss of control or experience a sense of insecurity, they try to regain control by offering recommendations to others. It bolsters their view of themselves after the task itself has threatened their self-perceptions. Of course, these findings do not mean that the recommendations provided by these individuals are worthless or counterproductive. It does, however, suggest that companies should understand what truly drives people's behavior when trying to encourage recommendations and word-of-mouth advertising of their products and services. It also might mean that we should take recommendations with a grain of salt when the purchasing decision is highly complicated and stressful.