The Effects of Outcome Versus Process-Oriented Thinking on Decision Difficulty

Debora Thompson, Georgetown University
Rebecca Hamilton, University of Maryland
Petia Petrova, Dartmouth College
We investigate the effect of process versus outcome-oriented thinking on subjective experiences during the decision-making process. Across two product categories, we show that relative to outcome-oriented thinking, process-oriented thinking systematically increases choice difficulty when participants are faced with desirability vs. feasibility trade-offs. This greater difficulty makes participants more willing to postpone choice and more likely to select a compromise option. Initial evidence suggests that the negative effect of process-oriented thinking on decision difficulty arises from a heightened focus on attribute trade-offs and is mediated by the tendency to perceive the alternatives as more similar in attractiveness.
[ to cite ]:
Debora Thompson, Rebecca Hamilton, and Petia Petrova (2008) ,"The Effects of Outcome Versus Process-Oriented Thinking on Decision Difficulty", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 35, eds. Angela Y. Lee and Dilip Soman, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 867-867.