The impact of reversibility on the decision to disclose personal information

Eyal Peer*, Alessandro Acquisti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: This paper aims to examine how reversibility in disclosing personal information – that is, having (vs not having) to option to later revise or retract personal information – can impact consumers’ willingness to divulge personal information. Design/methodology/approach: Three studies examined how informing consumers they may (reversible condition) or may not (irreversible condition) revise their personal information in the future affected their propensity to disclose personal information, compared to a control condition. Findings: Study 1 (which included three experiments with different time intervals between initial and revised disclosure) showed that consumers disclose less in both the reversible and irreversible conditions, compared to the control condition. Studies 2 and 3 showed that this is because consumers treat reversibility as a cue to the sensitivity of the information they are asked to divulge, and that leads them to disclose less when reversibility or irreversibility is made explicitly salient beforehand. Practical implications: As many marketers are interested in hoarding consumers’ personal information, privacy advocates call for methods that would ensure careful and well-informed disclosure. Offering reversibility to a decision to disclose personal information, or merely pointing out the irreversibility of that decision, can make consumers reevaluate the sensitivity of the situation, leading to more careful disclosures. Originality/value: Although previous research on reversibility in consumer behavior focused on product return policies and showed that reversibility increases purchases, none have studied how reversibility affects self-disclosure and how it can decrease it.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)428-436
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Consumer Marketing
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


  • Personal information
  • Privacy
  • Reversibility
  • Self-disclosure


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