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Different ways of looking at unpleasant truths: How construal levels influence information search

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  • Shani, Yaniv
  • Igou, Eric R.
  • Zeelenberg, Marcel

Abstract

When not knowing the negative outcome of past decision, people search for more information even when it confirms their negative suspicion. What drives this information search is the hope that the unpleasant state of "not knowing" ends when one faces the truth [Shani, Y., Tykocinski, O. E., & Zeelenberg, M. (2008). When ignorance is not bliss: How distressing uncertainty drives the search of negative information. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 643-653; Shani, Y., & Zeelenberg, M. (2007). When and why do we want to know? How experienced regret promotes post-decision information search. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 20, 207-222]. Previous research suggests that adopting high- or low-level construals of a situation can increase or decrease the affective value of experiences [Metcalfe, J., & Mischel, W. (1999). A hot/cool-system analysis of delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower. Psychological Review, 106, 3-19, Mischel, W., Ayduk, O., & Mendoza-Denton, R. (2003). Sustaining delay of gratification over time: A hot-cool systems perspective. In G. Loewenstein & D. Read (Eds.), Time and decision: Economic and psychological perspectives on intertemporal choice (pp. 175-200). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation; Trope, Y., Gervey, B., & Bolger, N. (2003). The role of perceived control in overcoming defensive self-evaluation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 407-419]. We propose that the need to know the potentially hurtful truths about one's own decision increases when people adopt a low-level construal, but it decreases when people adopt a high-level construal. In five experiments, we manipulated construal levels and assessed the effects on information search and the underlying psychological process.

Suggested Citation

  • Shani, Yaniv & Igou, Eric R. & Zeelenberg, Marcel, 2009. "Different ways of looking at unpleasant truths: How construal levels influence information search," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 110(1), pages 36-44, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:110:y:2009:i:1:p:36-44
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Uri Gneezy & John A. List & George Wu, 2006. "The Uncertainty Effect: When a Risky Prospect is Valued Less than its Worst Possible Outcome," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1283-1309.
    2. Loewenstein, George, 1987. "Anticipation and the Valuation of Delayed Consumption," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 666-684, September.
    3. Zeelenberg, M., 1999. "The use of crying over spilled milk : A note on the rationality and functionality of regret," Other publications TiSEM 66ac04be-d1ee-4a0e-9e97-7, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
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    Cited by:

    1. Shani, Yaniv & Cepicka, Marie Christine & Shashar, Nadav, 2011. "Keeping up with the Joneses: Dolphins' search knowledge for knowledge's sake," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 418-424, June.
    2. Ruttan, Rachel L. & Nordgren, Loran F., 2016. "The strength to face the facts: Self-regulation defends against defensive information processing," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 86-98.

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