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Hedonic Contrast Effects Are Larger When Comparisons Are Social

Carey K Morewedge, Meng Zhu, Eva C Buechel, Vicki G Morwitz, Linda L Price and Andrea C Morales

Journal of Consumer Research, 2019, vol. 46, issue 2, 286-306

Abstract: A hedonic contrast effect occurs when comparing a stimulus to its alternatives makes it better or worse. We find that counterfactual comparisons induce larger hedonic contrast effects when they are also social comparisons. Hedonic contrast effects influence happiness with a food or wage more when another person receives its counterfactual alternative than when no person receives its counterfactual alternative. Social attention, the propensity to attend to the experiences of other people, underlies the larger hedonic contrast effects induced by social comparisons. People pay more attention to counterfactual alternatives when they are also social comparison standards, and this difference in the allocation of attention mediates the larger hedonic contrast effects that social counterfactual comparisons induce. Reducing attentional resources with cognitive load or time pressure reduces the impact of social counterfactual comparisons, and drawing attention to nonsocial counterfactual comparisons increases their impact. Social attention makes comparisons stronger when they are social.

Keywords: social comparison; hedonic contrast effects; social attention; counterfactual thinking; affect (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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