Ali Faraji Rad and Michel Tuan Pham
J Consum Res (2017) ucw073.
Published: 23 January 2017
How do psychological states of uncertainty influence the way people make decisions? We propose that such states increase the reliance on affective inputs in judgments and decisions. In accord with this proposition, results from six studies show that the priming of uncertainty (vs. certainty) consistently increases the effects of a variety of affective inputs on consumers’ judgments and decisions. Primed uncertainty is shown to amplify the effects of the pleasantness of a musical soundtrack (study 1), the attractiveness of a picture (study 2), the appeal of affective attributes (studies 3 and 4), incidental mood states (study 6), and even incidental states of disgust (study 5). Moreover, both negative and positive uncertainty increase the influence of affect in decisions (study 4). The results additionally show that the increased reliance on affective inputs under uncertainty does not necessarily come at the expense of a reliance on descriptive attribute information (studies 2 and 5), and that the increased reliance on affect under uncertainty is distinct from a general reliance on heuristic or peripheral cues (study 6). The phenomenon may be due to uncertainty threatening the self, thereby encouraging a reliance on inputs that are closer to the self and have high subjective validity.
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