Special Session Summary Perceived Pain and Pleasure: Preferences For Experience-Structure and Characteristics

Dan Ariely, Duke University
Gal Zauberman, Duke University
[ to cite ]:
Dan Ariely and Gal Zauberman (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Perceived Pain and Pleasure: Preferences For Experience-Structure and Characteristics", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 23.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Page 23



Dan Ariely, Duke University

Gal Zauberman, Duke University

The work presented in the current session focused on the relationship between sequences of experiences and behaviors over time. Specifically, the participants argued that in order to understand the impact of a sequence of experiences one needs to take into consideration their ordering, and not simply their independent magnitude. By analogy, although it is clear that there is value in studying the properties of Hydrogen (H) and Oxygen (O) independently, it is also clear that their combination is of a different nature (H2O). Demonstrating that sequences are different than the sum of their parts is important because it suggests that the relationship between these parts is crucial for understanding their combined impact. Moreover, the papers in this session point at new theoretical directions for understanding sequences over time.

The paper by Ariely and Zauberman examined the "rules" by which consumers combine experiences whose intensity changes over time into a single overall evaluation. First, this work demonstrates once again the relationship between the progress of experiences over time and their overall evaluation. Specifically, they show that patterns that increase over time are evaluated as more intense than patterns that decrease over time, independent of the overall intensity of a sequence. Furthermore, they demonstrate that the rules for combining such sequences depend on their level of cohesiveness, i.e., whether these experiences are perceived to be composed of single or multiple parts.

The paper by Ratner, Kahn & Kahneman examined a different context in which the sequences are not determined externally, but rather are a consequence of the repeated choices made by consumers. Within this context the authors examine whether the degree of variety-seeking (degree of change over time) is aimed at maximizing experienced or remembered utility. Their results indicate that experienced utility is greater when participants limit their choices to their initially most-preferred options (i.e., less variety). However, remembered utility increases when participants do not limit their choices to their most-preferred initial options (i.e., when they sample the less-preferred options in addition to their favorites). The conclusion, therefore, is that subjects are strategic in choosing the sequences they want to engage in and that this strategic behavior can be directed either toward remembered or experienced utility.

The paper by Prelec, Loewenstein & Zellermayer also examined sequences of choices and decisions. Their focus was not selecting alternatives but rather deciding whether to engage in an activity or to avoid it all together. Specifically, the behavior this work examined is Compulsive Reluctance to Spen ("tightwaddism"). Their results indicate that tightwaddism is wide-spread and that consumers often engage in behaviors aimed at controlling their spending. In addition, this tendency is shown to vary across product categories and found more often for necessities than for luxury products.

The session was eloquently summarized by Colin Camerer, so that the sequence of experiences within the session clearly had an improving trend over time. Retrospectively evaluating this discussion could not possibly capture its richness.