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Do Choices Affect Preferences? Some Doubts and New Evidence

  • Steinar Holden

Recent research is exploring the case for choice-induced changes in preferences using the free-choice paradigm of Brehm (1956). Participants are faced with a choice between items that they have given the same rating of liking, two items at a time, and it is found that an item not chosen in one choice has a lower tendency of being chosen in a subsequent choice. This tendency is interpreted as evidence for choice-induced changes in preferences. I argue that this interpretation of the evidence is invalid. Furthermore, I report a novel experiment in which participants were specifically asked to compare the items, allowing for a consistent interpretation of the evidence. I find no evidence of choice-induced changes in preferences after a choice between items where one was viewed as more attractive than the other, but potentially some weak evidence of changes in preferences after a choice between items viewed as equally attractive.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2868.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2868
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  1. 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.
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