Consumers generally value competence more than morality when choosing among service providers, but that effect is weakened if the less-competent provider is seen as an underdog, according to recent research published in the AMA's Journal of Marketing.

The report was based on research conducted by Amna Kirmani, Rebecca Hamilton, Debora Thompson, and Shannon Lantzy of Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. The researchers conducted five studies to compare the impact of competence, morality, and warmth on consumers' choices.

The first study analyzed reviews of businesses to see how different attributes correlate to positive evaluations.

Some 88% of the positive online reviews examined mentioned competency attributes (reliable, knowledgeable, etc.).

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image of Ayaz Nanji

Ayaz Nanji is a digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Media, a marketing agency specializing in content and social media services for tech firms. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

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Twitter: @ayaznanji