In the digital age, we are under constant bombardment by advertising. As of 2014, the average American experiences an estimated 362 “advertisement only exposures” and up to 5,000 “brand exposures” per day (SJ Insights 2020). Our daily lives include interactions with hundreds of products, branded and unbranded. Every choice we make is the result of a complex web of objective analysis, emotional states, biases, habits, environments, and social and cultural influences. Advertisements endeavor to take advantage of that web and seek to alter our decision making process. Consumers seek differing amounts of information when choosing a product and conduct a highly variable amount of research when making purchase decisions. Similarly, a consumer’s self-perceived level of objectivity varies widely. Though the existing literature on advertising is rich, most approaches aim to understand advertising in broad decision making contexts (e.g., [Kumar and Raju 2013[(https://www.academia.edu/14853811/The_Role_of_Advertising_in_Consumer_Decision_Making)) or look at specific advertising modalities such as affective conditioning or mere exposure (e.g., Baker 1999).
I performed an experiment to investigate the causal effect of advertising on objective decision making by answering the following research question: Does direct exposure to advertising with forced engagement reduce objectivity in making purchase decisions?