Wolves in sheep’s clothing: How and when hypothetical questions influence behavior

Wolves in sheep’s clothing: How and when hypothetical questions influence behavior

By
Sarah G. Moore, David T. Neal, Gavan J. Fitzsimons, Baba Shiv
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. January
2012, Vol. 117, Issue 1, Pages 168–178

How and when does responding to hypothetical questions shape future judgment and behavior? We identify knowledge accessibility as an implicit process through which hypothetical questions influence individuals, and examine moderators of accessibility that determine when these effects obtain. In an initial study, we show that hypothetical questions increase the accessibility of the specific positive or negative knowledge referenced by the question. In five subsequent studies, we manipulate factors known to enhance (consistency, elaboration) and attenuate (awareness, delay) accessibility, and show that these factors moderate the influence of hypothetical questions on individuals’ voting choices, legal decision-making, and consumption behavior.