The “Instrumentality” Heuristic: When Metacognitive Difficulty Increases Desirability

Ample research demonstrates that by signaling familiarity and personal relevance, the subjective ease of processing an object increases the objects desirability. However, we propose that when a goal is highly accessible, difficulty (vs. ease) of processing increases desirability of an object that is a means to fulfill the goal. This is because people investing effort usually select those means that are most instrumental in accomplishing their goals. Thus, when assessing the value of the target object in fulfilling their goal they also reverse this correlation inferring that effort signals instrumentality. When the object is not a means to fulfill an accessible goal or when no clear goals are accessible, ease of processing improves evaluation, replicating previous findings on ease of processing.


Sara Kim and Aparna A. Labroo (2009) ,"The “Instrumentality” Heuristic: When Metacognitive Difficulty Increases Desirability", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 8-11.


Sara Kim, University of Chicago, USA
Aparna A. Labroo, University of Chicago, USA


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36 | 2009

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