Rationalization and Cognitive Dissonance: Do Choices Affect or Reflect Preferences?
AbstractCognitive dissonance is one of the most influential theories in psychology, and its oldest experiential realization is choice-induced dissonance. In contrast to the economic approach of assuming a person's choices reveal their preferences, psychologists have claimed since 1956 that people alter their preferences to rationalize past choices by devaluing rejected alternatives and upgrading chosen ones. Here, I show that every study which has tested this preference-spreading effect has overlooked the potential that choices may reflect individual preferences. Specifically, these studies have implicitly assumed that subject's preferences can be measured perfectly, i.e., with infinite precision. Absent this, their methods, even with control groups, will mistakenly identify cognitive dissonance when there is none. Correctly interpreted, several prominent studies actually reject the presence of choice-induced dissonance. This suggests that mere choice may not always induce rationalization, a reversal that may significantly change the way we think about cognitive dissonance as a whole.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 122247000000002336.
Date of creation: 29 Aug 2008
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.dklevine.com/
Other versions of this item:
- M. Keith Chen, 2008. "Rationalization and Cognitive Dissonance: Do Choices Affect or Reflect Preferences?," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1669, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
- A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
- C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
- D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Nalebuff, Barry, 1987. "Choose a Curtain, Duel-ity, Two Point Conversions, and More," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 157-63, Fall.
- Elinder, Mikael, 2009.
"Correcting Mistakes: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes in Sweden and the United States,"
Working Paper Series
2009:12, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
- Mikael Elinder, 2012. "Correcting mistakes: cognitive dissonance and political attitudes in Sweden and the United States," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 153(1), pages 235-249, October.
- Elinder, Mikael, 2009. "Correcting Mistakes: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes in Sweden and the United States," Working Paper Series 802, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
- Bellemare, Marc F. & Holmberg, Andrew M., 2010. "The Determinants of Music Piracy in a Sample of College Students," MPRA Paper 23641, University Library of Munich, Germany.
- Steinar Holden, 2009. "Do Choices Affect Preferences? Some Doubts and New Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 2868, CESifo Group Munich.
- Bellemare, Marc F., 2010.
"As You Sow, So Shall You Reap: The Welfare Impacts of Contract Farming,"
23638, University Library of Munich, Germany.
- Bellemare, Marc F., 2012. "As You Sow, So Shall You Reap: The Welfare Impacts of Contract Farming," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 1418-1434.
- Bellemare, Marc F., 2010. "As You Sow, So Shall You Reap: The Welfare Impacts of Contract Farming," MPRA Paper 27259, University Library of Munich, Germany.
- Arad, Ayala, 2013. "Past decisions do affect future choices: An experimental demonstration," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 121(2), pages 267-277.
- Sandroni, Alvaro & Cherepavov, Vadim & Feddersen, Timothy, 2013. "Rationalization," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 8(3), September.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (David K. Levine).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.