The Having vs Using Effect has been proven by many different researchers, amongst them Goodman & Irmak (2012) who carried out a series of studies on this subject. They showed the way in which people have a tendency to prefer and be willing to pay more for products or services that offer multiple functions, even if they’re unlikely to actually make use of them. For example, we are more drawn towards subscription tariffs (phone contracts, travel cards, etc.) rather than paying for something just as and if we use it even though this could actually work out cheaper for us if we don’t in reality use something that much. Equally, we are drawn towards something with the largest number of, or most up-to-date, functions and features without fully considering the likelihood that we will actually need or want these.
Goodman & Irmak discovered a number of reasons behind the Having vs Using Effect. The more complex and technical the functions of a product, or otherwise the less familiar they are to us, the more we are at risk of falling victim to the Having vs Using Effect as we will struggle to effectively evaluate the true amount of usage we will get from the different functions in question. We’re also likely to think that a product with more features must be a better product, simply because it has something that another product doesn’t, and so are willing to pay more for this “better” product irrespective of whether its extra “features” are useful for us. We are prone to think more in terms of what we’re going to “have” (the overall product, which is perceived to be a better one) rather than what we will realistically “use”. This cognitive bias stems from widespread materialism and “ostentatious consumerism”, whereby we buy the latest models filled with potentially useless functions simply for the social status they bring. We imagine this type of product to seem more fashionable and to make us seem as though we are “on the pulse” for all the latest technologies etc.
Studies have shown that in a situation where we are forced to think about our actual usage of an item then we often pick different products. By putting aside the number of functions available and actually picking a product based on our own individual requirements, a much better and more satisfying purchase is often made. In the commercial world, the Having vs Using Effect is often used to sell new and function-heavy items – that are generally much more expensive – by presenting these items to customers in terms of what they could “have” rather than what they will actually “use” so that they consider them in their totality rather than in detail. The most recent iPhone is a great example of this as it is sold quite simply as the “new, must-have iPhone” without any real detail about what new functions it offers in particular.