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Fearless Idea 19: Ditch Your 'Wingman'

Mar 19, 2017
World Class Faculty & Research

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SMITH BRAIN TRUST — If you want to meet new people, leave your “wingman” at home and go out alone. People will think you are more open-minded, curious and interested in the world and be more likely to strike up a conversation with you. That’s the finding of new research from Rebecca Ratner at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and Smith marketing PhD student Yuechen Wu. 

This research builds on Ratner’s previous findings that people are reluctant to do fun activities in public settings alone, such as dining out or going to a movie, because they are afraid that others will judge them negatively. “The notion that ‘people will think I’m a loser and have no friends’ keeps people from venturing out alone,” says Ratner. She and Wu decided to take that research further and examine whether those fears are warranted.

“We find that people might think those out alone have fewer friends, but not that they are losers because of it,” Ratner says. “People are not doing things alone because they are afraid of what others will think of them. But actually if you want to make a positive impression on others, going out and doing these types of things alone will make a very particular type of positive impression on people.”

She and Wu found that people are actually more interested in interacting with solo (vs. accompanied) consumers. For example, if a person ventures to an art museum alone, others will assume it’s because he or she is very interested in the art, not just there to hang out with friends (their conclusion for people accompanied by others). People are more likely to initiate conversation with the lone individuals, thinking that person will be more open to talking to them.

Podcast: Rebecca Ratner presents her research on Episode 15 of "Tell Me Something I Don't Know," a new kind of game show, hosted by Stephen J. Dubner of Freakonomics Radio. Listen to the full episode (58:33) or click below to hear Ratner's segment (6:25).

Read more: “Seeing Openness in Solitude: Actual versus Anticipated Evaluations of Solo (vs. Accompanied) Consumers,” is a working paper.

Rebecca Ratner is the Dean’s Professor of Marketing and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Research interests: Factors underlying suboptimal consumer decision making, focusing on variety seeking and the influence of social norms.

Selected accomplishments: Research has appeared in top marketing, psychology, and decision-making journals, including Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Her research has been featured in the media including The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS News: This Morning, and NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. She has served as associate editor at the Journal of Consumer Research and Journal of Marketing Research and co-editor of Journal of Marketing Research.

About this series: The Smith School faculty is celebrating Women’s History Month 2017 in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Daily faculty spotlights support activities from the school’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, culminating with the sixth annual Women Leading Women forum on March 30, 2017.

Other fearless ideas from: Rajshree Agarwal  |  Ritu Agarwal  |  Leigh Anenson  |  Kathryn M. Bartol  |  Christine Beckman  |  Margrét Bjarnadóttir  |  M. Cecilia Bustamante  |  Rellie Derfler-Rozin  |  Waverly Ding  |  Wedad J. Elmaghraby  |  Rosellina Ferraro  |  Rebecca Hann  |  Amna Kirmani  |  Hanna Lee  |  Hui Liao  |  Wendy W. Moe  |  Courtney Paulson  |  Louiqa Raschid  |  Rebecca Ratner  |  Rachelle Sampson  |  Debra L. Shapiro  |  Cynthia Kay Stevens  |  M. Susan Taylor  |  Vijaya Venkataramani  |  Janet Wagner  |  Yajin Wang  |  Yajun Wang  |  Liu Yang  |  Jie Zhang  |  Lingling Zhang  |  PhD Candidates

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty master's, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.