Choices Are Based on Feelings Not Value

Posted on June 21, 2016

Overall, the model based on anticipated feelings fit people’s choices best. In this model, people gave more weight to their potential negative feelings than to their potential positive feelings. So, loss aversion did not reflect the strength of people’s feelings, but rather the importance that negative feelings were given in the choice.

This study suggests that people experience the value of items as feelings rather than as some objective measure of value. They use their anticipated feelings for good and bad outcomes to guide choices. Because people want to avoid feeling bad, they give more weight to negative feelings than to positive feelings.

A particularly interesting aspect of these data is that experienced feelings are less strong than anticipated feelings. That means that you may avoid some opportunities because of a fear of how it will feel to experience it, even though the actual experience is likely to be less bad than you expect it will be.

An open question from this work is whether it is good or bad to use feelings to make choices (at least for gambles). It is clear that people naturally turn their expectations of value into feelings. However, it is not clear whether people would be more likely to maximize their gains and minimize their losses if they focused on their feelings or on the objective values.

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Source material from Psychology Today

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