The Foresight Effect: Local Optimism Motivates Consistency and Local Pessimism Motivates Variety
68 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2016
Date Written: 2015
Consumers sometimes prefer to repeat their past choices, while other times the same consumer prefers to try something new. We demonstrate that a consumers’ situational future outlook, that is, local optimism or pessimism about an imminent outcome, can systematically affect the sequential consistency of consumer choices. Specifically, local optimism increases sequential choice consistency, while local pessimism increases sequential variety seeking. We test this “Foresight Effect” in two experimental paradigms, using both real and hypothetical consumer choices, across six studies. We first establish the basic effect of situational future outlook on sequential choice consistency (Studies 1 & 2). Then, we provide evidence that differences in the preference for self-continuity underlie the effect (Studies 3, 4, & 5). Last, we extend this effect to choices between broadly defined usual and novel consumer products (Study 6). Across the studies, we rule out differences in mood, causal attribution, and perceived control as alternative explanations. These findings have theoretical implications for the relationship between future-oriented cognition and consumer behaviors, as well as broad managerial implications for when consumers will be more apt to repeat past purchases or more open to novel product adoption.
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