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Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania discovered that although slightly controversial topics can be intriguing to consumers, topics that are too controversial turn them off.
As part of the study, the authors analyzed more than 200 online news articles to measure how the controversy level of an article corresponded to the number of comments it received. They found that moderately controversial articles received more comments than articles that were either less or more controversial.
The study's authors — Zoey Chen, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Jonah Berger, of the Wharton School — said that even though consumers may touch on controversial topics with friends— or when they're posting anonymously — companies' attempts to evoke controversy can often backfire.
"While negative attention can sometimes make consumers more interested in a topic, you should avoid evoking more than a moderate level of controversy if you want to generate more word of mouth," the authors wrote.
The study, "When, Why and How Controversy Causes Conversation," is scheduled to appear in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.
Originally on BusinessNewDaily .