What is Hedonic Bias?

Hedonic bias refers to when people have a general habit of attributing success to themselves and attributing failure to external factors.

The Role Hedonic Bias Plays in Marketing

Human behavior, specifically human learning, plays a vital role in purchasing decisions. Most human learning happens through incidental learning. Learning takes place as consumers engage with their favorite brands and the brand’s product offerings.  

Learning theorists believe that learning takes place through:

  1. Drive
  2. Stimuli
  3. Cues
  4. Responses
  5. Reinforcement

For example, suppose you purchase a new Apple iPhone. Your drive is a strong internal stimulus that compels you to take action and make the purchase. Minor stimuli that determine when, where, and how you respond are cues. If your purchase and product experience are rewarding, your attitude toward the iPhone and Apple brand is positively reinforced. If you decide to make additional future purchases for your iPhone, you may assume that because Apple makes a good iPhone, they make other good, quality products. 

Learning theory shows marketers that they can generate demand for products by associating the products with strong drives, using motivating cues, and providing positive reinforcement. However, when a consumer’s learning depends on the inferences or interpretations they make about a brand or product, this could lead to a hedonic bias. That is, consumers are more likely to blame a product for its shortcoming than themselves. 

To help reduce hedonic bias, marketers can develop specific product functions in well-designed packaging and labels, instructive advertisements, websites, and marketing collateral.