Figure 173

Effects of fairness manipulation on choice of the option with selected or with non-selected survivors. Data from Wang (1996).

imagine that they had the chance to buy a very cheap holiday in Hawaii, but the special offer expired tomorrow. They had three choices: (1) buy the holiday; (2) decide not to buy the holiday; (3) pay a $5 nonrefundable fee to retain the opportunity to buy the holiday the day after tomorrow. All the participants were asked to assume that they had just taken a difficult examination. In one version of the problem, they knew that they had passed the examination. In a second version, they knew they had failed. In the third version, they would find out whether they had passed or failed the day after tomorrow.

What do you think the three groups of participants decided to do? Of those who had passed, a majority decided to buy the holiday, as did most of those who had failed (see Figure 17.4). However, only 32% of those who did not know their examination result decided to buy the holiday immediately. These findings can be explained in terms of perceived justification. Those who have passed an examination "deserve" a holiday, and those who have failed "deserve" some kind of consolation. If someone does not know whether or not they have passed an examination, there seems to be no compelling justification for going on holiday. The participants' use of perceived justification sounds rational, but actually violates utility theory.

Anticipated regret

The choices we make are often affected by the anticipated emotions that will be produced by each choice. More specifically, anticipated regret influences choices between consumer products, sexual practices, gambles, and medical decisions (see Mellers et al., 1998). Thus, choices that seem generally desirable are avoided if they produce anticipated regret.

Baron (e.g., 1997) predicted that anticipated regret can produce an omission bias, in which individuals prefer inaction over action. For example, Ritov and Baron (1990) studied a situation in which people had to choose whether or not to have their child vaccinated. When the vaccine had potentially fatal side effects, many people chose not to have their child vaccinated, even though the likelihood of the vaccine causing death was much lower than the death rate from the disease against which the vaccine protects. This omission bias

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