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How Prevalent is Post-Decision Dissonance? Some Doubts and New Evidence


  • Holden, Steinar

    (Dept. of Economics, University of Oslo)


Recent research is exploring the case for cognitive or post-decision dissonance using the free-choice paradigm of Brehm (1956). Participants are repeatedly 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 items not chosen in one choice has a lower tendency of being chosen in a subsequent choice against a different alternative item. This tendency is interpreted as evidence for cognitive or post-decision dissonance. 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 post-decision dissonance after a choice between items where one was viewed as more attractive than the other, but potentially some weak evidence of post-decision dissonance after a choice between items viewed as equally attractive.

Suggested Citation

  • Holden, Steinar, 2009. "How Prevalent is Post-Decision Dissonance? Some Doubts and New Evidence," Memorandum 18/2009, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:osloec:2009_018

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. M. Keith Chen, 2008. "Rationalization and Cognitive Dissonance: Do Choices Affect or Reflect Preferences?," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002336, David K. Levine.
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    More about this item


    post-decision dissonance; cognitive dissonance; preferences;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles

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