12 June 2013

The impact of introspection on preference choices

Van Gogh's Irises, from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Tom Stafford gives a commentary on 1993 research by Tim Wilson and team, showing how getting people to introspect on their reasons for preference choices can shift the choices people make. When asked to select between a set of fine art or cartoon posters, students who were required to introspect about the reasons for their choice were more likely to select cartoon posters than those who were not required to introspect. Wilson concluded that because it was easier to make concrete, positive statements about the cartoon posters than about the art posters, the students tended to select them to (subconsciously) avoid cognitive dissonance. When contacted some weeks after the study, students in the experimental group were less likely to have put the poster they had selected on their wall than those in the control, who had not been required to give reasons for their choice (and were more likely to have chosen a fine art poster).

Worth bearing in mind when carrying out studies of visual attributes, as I so often do, that require participants to explain their preferences and choices.

[via Mindhacks]

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