Ulterior Motives

How goals, both seen and unseen, drive behavior

Choices You Make Today Affect You For Years

People are often creatures of habit in the choices they make. A brand of toothpaste that you start to buy as a college student can easily become the brand you purchase most often for the rest of your adult life. Read More

Not sure what the point

Not sure what the point is.

This narration of the study is unclear.

So were these just hypothetical choices?

It sounds like they weren't because you speak of whether they LIKED the place they chose--which suggests they actually went there.

But if they went there, then obviously any changes resulting from the choice might be caused by the experiences while going there.

If it's just hypothetical, it seems like a kind of obvious thing: if you ask whether you'd prefer Tahiti or St Croix, and think about it for five minutes, you may remember what you chose before, and offer the same preference again.

But there's another problem based on your narration of the study. How do you know that making the same choice a year later doesn't merely manifest a pre-existing predilection for, say, Tahiti over St. Croix, rather than a causal impact of having made the choice?

Thanks for the comments.

Thanks for the comments. Sorry if this wasn't clear. The choices were hypothetical, so there were no experiences to influence the later preference.

The 'hard' choices were set up so that the ratings people gave initially were identical. So, any later differences in the ratings have to have come from the choice.

I hope this makes it clearer.

Wondering about the free-choice paradigm?

Post hoc ergo propter hoc? It doesn't have to be BECAUSE of the choice. The ratings were identical but does that mean the underlying preferences were identical. Report in whole numbers: 6.8 or 7.2.

Risen, J. & Chen, K., " How choice affects and reflects preferences: Revisiting the free-choice paradigm,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 573-594 (2010).

True, but if that were really

True, but if that were really the case, then why do the easy choices make the long-term preference go down? That is, when you clearly prefer A over B, the item you choose gets less preferred in the long-run. That could be a kind of regression to the mean effect, I suppose, but either way you end up with two different mechanisms to explain the overall pattern of data.

Also, even if it is 6.8 vs. 7.2 initially, later, the ratings diverge measurably using whole number reports. So, something else has to be going on as well.

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Art Markman, Ph.D., is a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas whose research spans a range of topics in the way people think.

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