Choosing to avoid: Coping with negatively emotion-laden consumer decisions
This article addresses how consumers resolve decisions involving conflict between attributes linked to highly valued goals, such as an automobile purchase decision requiring determination of how much safety one is willing to sacrifice in order to obtain other benefits. One salient goal for these decisions may be coping with or minimizing the negative emotion generated during decision making. The conceptual framework developed in this article predicts that choosing avoidant options (e.g., the option to maintain the status quo) can satisfy coping goals by minimizing explicit confrontation of negative potential decision consequences and difficult trade-offs. Two experiments demonstrate that reported emotion can be altered by manipulating decision attributes, that the opportunity to choose an avoidant option mitigates levels of reported emotion, and that increasingly emotion-laden decision environments are associated with more choice of avoidant options. Mediation analyses indicate that actual choice of an avoidant option results in less retrospective negative emotion (in experiment 1) and that increased initial negative emotion results in increased choice of avoidant options (in experiment 2). Mediation analyses for experiment 2 also indicate that increased response times mediate avoidant choice, in contrast to explanations of the status quo bias and similar choice phenomena that appeal to decision makers' desires to minimize cognitive effort.
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