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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Nov;97(5):765-75. doi: 10.1037/a0017058.

The existence bias.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA.


The authors demonstrate that people treat the mere existence of something as evidence of its goodness. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that an existing state is evaluated more favorably than an alternative. Study 3 shows that imagining an event increases estimates of its likelihood, which in turn leads to favorable evaluation; the more likely that something will be, the more positively it is evaluated. Study 4 shows that the more a form is described as prevalent, the more aesthetically attractive is that form. This indicates a causal relationship between aesthetic judgments and existence in a domain lacking choice among alternatives. Study 5 extends the existence bias to gustatory evaluation and demonstrates that the effect is not moderated by valence. Together these studies suggest that mere existence leads to assumptions of goodness; the status quo is seen as good, right, attractive, tasty, and desirable.

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