Spreading of Alternatives Without a Perception of Choice
35 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2019
Date Written: February 25, 2019
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: Suggested Citation