Goal attainment as a resource: The cushion effect in risky choice above a goal



Goals are a ubiquitous part of life and have been shown to change behavior in many domains. This research studied the influence of goal attainment on risky choice behavior. Previous research has shown that goals tend to increase risk-seeking behavior when potential outcomes fall below a goal. We examined a new problem: Choice behavior when all potential outcomes in a choice set achieve or exceed the goal. Two studies show a “cushion effect” of goal attainment on choice under risk. When all possible outcomes of all options are above a salient and specific goal, decision makers are more likely to choose a risky option over a certain outcome with equal expected value (EV). We hypothesized that the attainment of a goal serves as a cushion that softens the negative emotions associated with receiving a gamble's low outcome. This allows risk taking that would otherwise be unattractive. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.