Spreading of Alternatives Without A Perception of Choice

Munz, Kurt P., and Vicki G. Morwitz (2018), "Spreading of Alternatives Without A Perception of Choice," Individual paper presented at the Society for Consumer Psychology Conference Dallas, TX.

Choosing a product leads to more favorable attitudes toward it (and more negative attitudes toward rejected options) compared to before a choice. This “post-choice spreading of alternatives” has been explained in terms of cognitive dissonance theory. Researchers have recently claimed that only a perception of having made a choice (vs. actual choice) is required for this spreading effect. We demonstrate in three experiments that even this perception is not necessary: spreading of alternatives can occur absent choice or a perception of having chosen. Thus, self-perceiving choice agency may not be prerequisite for dissonance, as previously believed.