Influence of the “benefit of the doubt” in online auctions

Yael Steinhart*, Michael Kamins, David Mazursky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In online auctions, as well as in other purchase settings, there are conditions when consumers embrace uncertainty instead of avoiding it. In these cases, consumers prefer not to know the true value of a product they are purchasing, thereby enjoying the “benefit of the doubt” that they may have come across an incredible buy. We demonstrate in a field study on eBay and in lab experiments that consumers are more likely to prefer a state of uncertainty regarding the likelihood of knowing an item’s true value (the Benefit-of-the-Doubt effect) when the seller has low rather than high categorical expertise and when it is more difficult to determine the item’s true value. We show that optimism about the true value of the item drives the Benefit-of-the-Doubt effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-260
Number of pages16
JournalMarketing Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Doubt
  • Expertise
  • Online auctions
  • Optimism


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