Choice-Induced Preference Change and the Free-Choice Paradigm: A Clarification

15 Pages Posted: 19 May 2012 Last revised: 27 May 2014

See all articles by Carlos Alós-Ferrer

Carlos Alós-Ferrer

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Fei Shi

University of Konstanz - Department of Economics

Date Written: February 18, 2012

Abstract

Positive spreading of ratings or rankings in the classical free-choice paradigm is commonly taken to indicate choice-induced change in preferences and has motivated influential theories as cognitive dissonance theory and self-perception theory. Chen and Risen (2010) argued by means of a mathematical proof that positive spreading is merely a statistical consequence of a flawed design. However, positive spreading has also been observed in blind choice and other designs where the alleged flaw should be absent. We show that the result in Chen and Risen (2010) is mathematically incorrect. Specifically, we present a formal model of decision making which satisfies all assumptions in that article but such that spreading needs not be positive in the absence of choice-induced preference change. Hence, although the free-choice paradigm is flawed, the present research shows that reasonable models of human behavior need not predict positive spreading. As a consequence, experimental results remain informative.

Keywords: cognitive dissonance, decision making, free-choice paradigm, preferences

JEL Classification: C91, D10

Suggested Citation

Alos-Ferrer, Carlos and Shi, Fei, Choice-Induced Preference Change and the Free-Choice Paradigm: A Clarification (February 18, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2062507 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2062507

Carlos Alos-Ferrer (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zürich
Switzerland

Fei Shi

University of Konstanz - Department of Economics ( email )

Konstanz, D-78457
Germany
00497531884048 (Phone)

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