The Jilting Effect: Antecedents, Mechanisms, and Consequences for Preference

The Jilting Effect: Antecedents, Mechanisms, and Consequences for Preference

By Aaron M. Garvey, Meg Meloy, Baba Shiv
March 29,2017Working Paper No. 3516

This research explores how the experience of a jilt — the anticipation and subsequent inaccessibility of a highly desirable, aspirant option — influences preference for incumbent and non-incumbent options. We conceptualize jilting as a multi-stage process, which consists of a pre-jilt anticipatory phase that is initiated upon the introduction of an aspirant option and a post-jilt phase that is initiated when the aspirant option becomes inaccessible. We show that during the anticipatory phase, a process of denigration specific to the incumbent option is engendered. The subsequent jilt elicits a negative emotional response. During the affectively-charged post-jilt phase, preference shifts away from the now-denigrated incumbent option, yielding a jilting effect. In four field and laboratory studies, we establish this jilting effect, rule out alternative accounts, and discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of our findings.

Keywords
jilting effect, incumbent option, dashed hopes, status quo, stock opts