Back to Publications


Rejecting a bad option feels like choosing a good one

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Perfecto, H.Galak, J.Simmons, J.P.Nelson, L.D. Olin Business School,
Washington University in St. Louis,

Carnegie Mellon University,
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Wharton School,
University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Haas School of Business,
University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
2017 Consciousness

Across 4,151 participants, the authors demonstrate a novel framing effect, attribute matching, whereby matching a salient attribute of a decision frame with that of a decision’s options facilitates decision-making. This attribute matching is shown to increase decision confidence and, ultimately, consensus estimates by increasing feelings of metacognitive ease. In Study 1, participants choosing the more attractive of two faces or rejecting the less attractive face reported greater confidence in and perceived consensus around their decision.

Using positive and negative words, Study 2 showed that the attribute’s extremity moderates the size of the effect. Study 3 found decision ease mediates these changes in confidence and consensus estimates. Consistent with a misattribution account, when participants were warned about this external source of ease in Study 4, the effect disappeared. Study 5 extended attribute matching beyond valence to objective judgments. The authors conclude by discussing related psychological constructs as well as downstream consequences.

The article was published in: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 113(5), Nov 2017, 659-670

Full article

This work was supported (in part) by the Fetzer Franklin Fund of the John E. Fetzer Memorial Trust.