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Absence makes the mind grow sharper: Effects of element omission on subsequent recall

Authors Sengupta, J. View this author's profile
Gorn, GJ HKUST affiliated (currently or previously)
Issue Date 2002
Source Journal of marketing research , v. 39, (2), 2002, MAY, p. 186-201
Summary The authors investigate the memorial consequences of deliberately omitting crucial elements from an advertisement. Research on the self-generation effect in cognitive psychology indicates that such element omission may actually lead to an improvement in recall. Support for this perspective is obtained in a series of experiments that explores the effects of feature omission in the context of both overt omission (in which the omission is highlighted by the advertiser) and implicit omission (in which the omission, though not highlighted in the advertisement, is noticed because of prior expectations for that ad type). Even under highly constrained processing conditions (e.g., exposure times as short as four seconds), an advertisement that omits a key element is shown to produce better recall than an equivalent advertisement that contains the element. The authors find that this recall improvement occurs along dimensions that are specifically related to the omitted element; therefore, leaving out an element related only to the product category (but not the brand) produces an improvement only in category recall, whereas brand recall is improved by the omission of an element related to the brand name. The authors discuss theoretical and managerial implications of these findings.
ISSN 0022-2437
Rights Reprinted with permission from JMR, Journal of Marketing Research, published by the American Marketing Association, Jaideep Sengupta, Gerald J. Gorn, May 2002, v.39, no. 2, p. 186-201.
Language English
Format Article
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