Evaluations of pairs of experiences: A preference for happy endings

Authors

  • William T. Ross,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
    • The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
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    • William T. Ross, Jr is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his PhD from Duke University in 1988. His research is in the area of consumer and sales force decision making. His research has appeared (or will appear) in The Journal of Marketing Research, Management Science, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

  • Itamar Simonson

    Corresponding author
    1. University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
    • Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
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    • Itamar Simonson is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Haas School of Business of the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his PhD from Duke University in 1987. His research is in the area of consumer and managerial decision making. His research has appeared (or will appear) in The Journal of Consumer Research, The Journal of Marketing Research, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.


Abstract

Experiences often consist of a number of temporally separated events or outcomes, events which might be positive or negative. Building on previous research, the present paper proposes that the chronological order of the component events influences overall evaluations of these experiences. In particular, a preference for happy endings is hypothesized such that an experience consisting of a positive and a negative event is evaluated as more satisfactory if the positive event occurs last. This preference is examined in three studies in a variety of contexts. A preference for happy endings is shown to influence people's preferences, even to the extent of influencing preferences for segregated versus integrated events (Thaler, 1985). The implications of a preference for happy endings for decision researchers are also explored.

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