How Does Ambivalence Affect Young Consumers’ Response to Risky Products?

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Although ambivalence (the coexistence of positive and negative components of an attitudinal target) is common in consumers’ lives, prior research is mixed in terms of when and how it influences consumers’ behavior. We theorize that ambivalence-evoked arousal causes people to focus on the immediate consequences of a consumption choice. Thus, ambivalence enhances approach behavior when immediate outcomes associated with consuming the focal product are positive, as is often the case with risky products. In six studies across multiple product categories, we show that adolescents’ and young adults’ (from the U.S. and France) ambivalence toward a risky product enhances willingness to pay for, intention to use, and interest in positive information about risky products. We also show that the heuristic cue of information about salient social norms moderates the relationship between ambivalence and approach behavior toward a risky product: the effect of ambivalence on approach behavior is enhanced when descriptive norms are higher and attenuated when lower.