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Nonconscious and Contaminative Effects of Hypothetical Questions on Subsequent Decision Making

By Gavan J. Fitzsimons


In this article we examine the impact of asking hypothetical questions on respondents’ subsequent decision making. Across several experiments we find that even though such questions are purely hypothetical, respondents are unable to prevent a substantial biasing effect on their behavior. Further, we find that an increase in cognitive elaboration increases the contaminative effects of hypothetical questions and that this increase occurs primarily when the hypothetical information is relevant. In-depth poststudy interviews with a subset of the participants suggest that the effects of hypothetical questions on choice occur beyond awareness and, as a result, are quite difficult to counteract. Researchers have long known that the manner in which a question is asked can influence underlying psychological processes, and, consequently, can affect the respons

Year: 2014
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