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Acta Psychol (Amst). 2000 Jun;104(3):303-15.

Attributions of responsibility and affective reactions to decision outcomes.

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  • 1Department of Marketing, Tilburg University, Netherlands.


Immediate affective reactions to outcomes are more intense following decisions to act than following decisions not to act. This finding holds for both positive and negative outcomes. We relate this "actor-effect" to attribution theory and argue that decision makers are seen as more responsible for outcomes when these are the result of a decision to act as compared to a decision not to act. Experiment 1 (N = 80) tests the main assumption underlying our reasoning and shows that affective reactions to decision outcomes are indeed more intense when the decision maker is seen as more responsible. Experiment 2 (N = 40) tests whether the actor effect can be predicted on the basis of differential attributions following action and inaction. Participants read vignettes in which active and passive actors obtained a positive or negative outcome. Action resulted in more intense affect than inaction, and positive outcomes resulted in more intense affect than negative outcomes. Experiment 2 further shows that responsibility attributions and affective reactions to outcomes are highly correlated; that is, more extreme affective reactions are associated with more internal attributions. We discuss the implications for research on post-decisional reactions.

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