We examine egocentric biases in mental accounting that occur when consumers face the prospect of disclosing information in exchange for online marketing incentives. We find that consumers keep balanced “mental accounts” of the costs and benefits of such exchanges when they are contingent or temporally integrated. However, when non-contingent exchanges are temporally separated so that benefits precede costs, or when bias correction is impeded in the same non-contingent transaction, consumers keep separate mental accounts in which they egocentrically devalue the marketers’ incentives, making them less likely to reciprocate by disclosing. We explore consequences of these findings for online relationships between consumers and marketers.
Keywords: online marketing incentives, egocentric bias, contingent exchange