Rejecting a Bad Option Feels Like Choosing a Good One

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Abstract

Across 4,151 participants, the authors demonstrate a novel framing effect, attribute matching, whereby matching a salient attribute of a decision frame with that of a decision’s options facilitates decision-making. This attribute matching is shown to increase decision confidence and, ultimately, consensus estimates by increasing feelings of metacognitive ease. In Study 1, participants choosing the more attractive of two faces or rejecting the less attractive face reported greater confidence in and perceived consensus around their decision. Using positive and negative words, Study 2 showed that the attribute’s extremity moderates the size of the effect. Study 3 found decision ease mediates these changes in confidence and consensus estimates. Consistent with a misattribution account, when participants were warned about this external source of ease in Study 4, the effect disappeared. Study 5 extended attribute matching beyond valence to objective judgments. The authors conclude by discussing related psychological constructs as well as downstream consequences.

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