When women are dissatisfied: Gender differences in product failure attribution

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We studied whether or not men and women respond differently to product failure by investigating how the level of satisfaction changes according to the failure severity and the locus of causality. We conducted an experiment with 2 types of failure attribution (company or consumer) and 2 different levels of failure severity (less severe or severe) with 237 participants. Results showed that, when product failure was severe, the women had lower satisfaction than the men did for consumer-caused failure, but not for company-caused failure. Utilizing a defensive attribution framework, we ran a mediation analysis to identify why such differences occur. The analysis suggested that defensive motivation, whereby the individual avoids self-blame for severe failure, was heightened more for women than for men. Our findings suggest that, when a product failure is consumer-caused, companies must react more rapidly when managing female consumers than when managing male ones. Further, companies should carefully consider recovery strategies that mitigate dissatisfaction, even for less severe company-caused failure.

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Social Behavior and Personality