Shultz, T. R., Léveillé, E., & Lepper, M. R. (1999). Free choice and cognitive dissonance revisited: Choosing "lesser evils" vs. "greater goods." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 40-48.



Traditional dissonance theory predicts a "spreading apart" of chosen and rejected alternatives following a decision. More recent constraint satisfaction models of this classic free-choice paradigm suggest that these effects may vary with the overall attractiveness of the choice options. This prediction was tested with 13-year-olds choosing among posters. As in prior computer simulations, a difficult choice between generally less desirable alternatives produced a large increase in participants' evaluations of the chosen alternative; whereas a difficult choice between generally more desirable alternatives produced a large decrease in evaluations of the rejected alternative. The results were discussed in terms of the relative amounts of dissonance created in the various conditions. The utility of the consonance, constraint satisfaction model that generated these novel predictions was stressed.


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