The Unpacking Effect in Evaluative Judgments: When the Whole is Less than the Sum of its Parts

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 39, pp. 263–269, 2003

7 Pages Posted: 31 May 2012

See all articles by Nicholas Epley

Nicholas Epley

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Leaf Van Boven

University of Colorado Boulder

Date Written: 2003

Abstract

Any category or event can be described in more or less detail. Although these different descriptions can reflect the same event objectively, they may not reflect the same event subjectively. Research on Support Theory led us to predict that more detailed descriptions would produce more extreme evaluations of categories or events than less detailed descriptions. Four experiments demonstrated this unpacking effect when people were presented with (Experiments 1 and 4), generated (Experiment 2), or were primed with (Experiment 3) more rather than less detailed descriptions of events. This effect was diminished when the details were less personally relevant (Experiment 4). We discuss several psychological mechanisms, moderators, and extensions of the unpacking effect.

Keywords: Evaluation, Support theory, Unpacking effect

Suggested Citation

Epley, Nicholas and Van Boven, Leaf, The Unpacking Effect in Evaluative Judgments: When the Whole is Less than the Sum of its Parts (2003). Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 39, pp. 263–269, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1532599

Nicholas Epley

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Leaf Van Boven (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Boulder ( email )

University of Colorado Boulder
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, 345 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303.735.5238 (Phone)
303.492.2967 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://psych.colorado.edu/~vanboven/

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