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Different ways of looking at unpleasant truths: How construal levels influence information search

By Yaniv Shani, Eric R. Igou and Marcel Zeelenberg

Abstract

When not knowing the negative outcome of past decision, people search for more information even when it confirms their negative suspicion. What drives this information search is the hope that the unpleasant state of "not knowing" ends when one faces the truth [Shani, Y., Tykocinski, O. E., & Zeelenberg, M. (2008). When ignorance is not bliss: How distressing uncertainty drives the search of negative information. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 643-653; Shani, Y., & Zeelenberg, M. (2007). When and why do we want to know? How experienced regret promotes post-decision information search. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 20, 207-222]. Previous research suggests that adopting high- or low-level construals of a situation can increase or decrease the affective value of experiences [Metcalfe, J., & Mischel, W. (1999). A hot/cool-system analysis of delay of gratification: Dynamics of willpower. Psychological Review, 106, 3-19, Mischel, W., Ayduk, O., & Mendoza-Denton, R. (2003). Sustaining delay of gratification over time: A hot-cool systems perspective. In G. Loewenstein & D. Read (Eds.), Time and decision: Economic and psychological perspectives on intertemporal choice (pp. 175-200). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation; Trope, Y., Gervey, B., & Bolger, N. (2003). The role of perceived control in overcoming defensive self-evaluation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 407-419]. We propose that the need to know the potentially hurtful truths about one's own decision increases when people adopt a low-level construal, but it decreases when people adopt a high-level construal. In five experiments, we manipulated construal levels and assessed the effects on information search and the underlying psychological process.Uncertainty Information search Construal level Unpleasant truths

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