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Spreading of Alternatives

  • By: Eddie Harmon-Jones & Cindy Harmon-Jones
  • In: Encyclopedia of Social Psychology
  • Edited by: Roy F. Baumeister & Kathleen D. Vohs
  • Subject:Social Psychology (general)

Inspired by cognitive dissonance theory, hundreds of experiments have demonstrated that following a difficult decision, compared with an easy one, individuals change their attitudes to be more consistent with their decisions. That is, following a decision, individuals evaluate the chosen alternative more positively and the rejected alternative more negatively than they did before the decision. This effect has been referred to as spreading of alternatives because the attitudes toward the chosen and rejected alternatives spread apart. Attributes of decision alternatives also become more coherent or more related with each other following decisions. Memories are also affected by choice, such that individuals incorrectly remember more positive features of chosen options and more negative features of rejected options.

In experiments on spreading of alternatives, people are induced to ...

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