A Preference for Revision Absent Objective Improvement

53 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2019 Last revised: 6 May 2020

See all articles by Ximena Garcia-Rada

Ximena Garcia-Rada

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Leslie K. John

Harvard Business School

Ed O'Brien

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: April 30, 2020

Abstract

Things change. Things also get changed—often. Why? The obvious reason is that revising things often makes them better. We document a less obvious reason: revising things makes consumers think they are better, even absent objective improvement. Eleven studies document the preference for revision and provide insight into its psychological underpinnings. Studies 1A-1C document the effect among MBA students engaged in a resume revision process, while Studies 2 and 3 demonstrate the effect both experientially (eating candy) and via choice (of pens). Revisions are preferred even when trivially different from their predecessors (study 4A), and even when there is no difference between original and revised versions (study 4B). Consumers overgeneralize their belief that revisers intend to improve their creations, and that revisions represent the successful fruition of those intentions (studies 5A and 5B); as a result, consumers are relatively uncritical of flaws in purportedly revised products (a video game; study 6), unless cued to doubt that revisers can be trusted (study 7).

Keywords: revision, change, sequences, judgment, inferences

Suggested Citation

Garcia-Rada, Ximena and John, Leslie K. and O'Brien, Ed and Norton, Michael I., A Preference for Revision Absent Objective Improvement (April 30, 2020). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 19-087, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3329340 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3329340

Ximena Garcia-Rada

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Leslie K. John (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Ed O'Brien

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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