First Words

The courage to admit that we have blind spots

This acknowledgment is at the heart of Christianity.

Generally speaking, we don’t like to admit mistakes any more than we like to make them. Shame messes with our fragile egos. Many people see little upside in acknowledging any behavior that might portray them in a negative light.

Sam Maglio and Taly Reich wanted to see if they could flip this perspective. Both are associate professors of marketing, Maglio at the University of Toronto Scarborough and Reich at the Yale School of Management. What they found through their research in the world of online purchasing was that customers who admitted in their customer reviews to making a previous purchasing mistake actually garnered more trust and respect from would-be buyers than those who wrote reviews without mention of a mistake in their purchasing experience.

Through lab experiments involving customer choice between different headphone brands, florist services, and breath mints, each participant was shown one of two reviews. The reviews were identical in nature, except in one of them the reviewer expressed personal dissatisfaction with a previous purchase. Instead of judging negatively those who admitted to a previous mistake through the public forum of an online review, a high percentage of potential purchasers were attracted to their advice. Reflecting on the research, Reich said, “We would probably have a better world if we could take the shame out of admitting and learning from our mistakes.”