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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Jun;76(6):988-1007.

Changes in attractiveness of elected, rejected, and precluded alternatives: a comparison of happy and unhappy individuals.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside 92521, USA.


In 3 studies the authors compared the responses of self-rated happy and unhappy students in situations involving choice. In Study 1, high school seniors evaluated colleges after applying for admission and then later after making their selections. Happy students tended to be more satisfied than unhappy ones with the colleges they ultimately chose and those they ultimately rejected, and they more sharply devalued the colleges that rejected them. Studies 2 and 3 dealt with postdecisional consequences of less consequential decisions about fancy desserts. In Study 2, unhappy participants sharply derogated the desserts they rejected or were denied, relative to those selected by or for them, whereas happy participants showed no such derogation. These group differences, moreover, proved to be largely independent of self-esteem and optimism. The design of Study 3 helped explicate underlying mechanisms by inducing both groups to distract themselves or to self-reflect. Doing so eliminated all group differences. Implications of the results for the link between cognitive processes and hedonic consequences are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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