Fragile enhancement of attitudes and intentions following difficult decisions

Fragile enhancement of attitudes and intentions following difficult decisions

By
Ab Litt, Zakary Tormala
Journal of Consumer Research.
2010, Vol. 37, Issue 4, Pages 584-598

Increased liking of one’s choice following difficult decisions (e.g., choosing between similarly attractive options) is well documented. Given the common mechanism proposed for this effect—a highly involving dissonance reduction process—it would be reasonable to expect such choice enhancement to be quite durable and resistant to later change. Instead, we show the contrary: that difficulty‐driven choice enhancement is exceptionally fragile, collapsing easily against even minor attack. In three experiments, consumers make easy or difficult product choices, report attitudes toward their choice, and subsequently encounter a negative customer review. Compared to easy decisions, difficult decisions lead to more extreme initial positivity toward chosen products but also to more vulnerability to subsequent attack. Moreover, this fragile enhancement effect is exacerbated, not ameliorated, by choice involvement. Thus, making difficult decisions between similarly attractive options may motivate a bubble‐like inflation of positivity that has some semblance of strength yet remains highly prone to collapse.