Spreading of Alternatives Without a Perception of Choice

35 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2019

See all articles by Kurt Munz

Kurt Munz

New York University (NYU), Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Marketing

Vicki Morwitz

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing

Date Written: February 25, 2019

Abstract

Choosing something improves a person’s attitude toward it, a classic example of behavior affecting attitudes. Three studies re-examine the causal role of behavior, arguing that neither the behavior of choosing nor the self-perception of having made a choice causes the attitude change directly. We demonstrate that a rationalization process similar to post-choice spreading of alternatives occurs whenever someone merely accepts an outcome as a true state of affairs. People normally accept outcomes they have personally chosen, but they may also accept outcomes they neither chose nor could reject. When a person accepts an assigned outcome, the negative features of that outcome no longer seem as important, allowing attitudes to improve. Higher outcome acceptance predicts greater post-outcome attitude change. Expecting to choose, but instead having an outcome assigned can undermine acceptance and inhibit attitude change. Thus, we question the causal role of behavior in a classic phenomenon.

Keywords: cognitive dissonance, self-perception, spreading of alternatives, decision making, choice, preferences, attitudes

JEL Classification: D91

Suggested Citation

Munz, Kurt and Morwitz, Vicki, Spreading of Alternatives Without a Perception of Choice (February 25, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3341564 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3341564

Kurt Munz (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU), Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Marketing ( email )

Henry Kaufman Ctr
44 W 4 St.
New York, NY
United States

Vicki Morwitz

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing ( email )

Henry Kaufman Ctr
44 W 4 St.
New York, NY
United States

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