Is losing better resolved quickly, or does holding onto hope for a positive outcome improve an otherwise negative experience? In other words, if you knew for sure that you would lose, would you prefer to know earlier (perhaps to get the bad news over with), or would you prefer to learn later in the contest (perhaps taking some consolation in fighting until the end)? Across four studies, we observed that consumers preferred to lose more slowly (later in the game) when presented a choice between fast and slow (studies 1 and 2) and when compared to winning (all studies). We also replicated the pattern in a naturalistic setting involving March Madness basketball (study 4). Finally, we showed that playing the game led to changes in preferences to favor earlier resolution, regardless of the outcome (studies 3 and 4), a pattern not well-predicted by existing theory.
Kurt Munz and Alixandra Barasch