The Price of a Piece of Cheese: Value from Fit Between Epistemic Needs and a Learning Versus an Outcome Focus


Ilona McNeill, Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Roetersstraat 15, 1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:


In decision making, people can focus on decisional outcomes (outcome focus), but they can also focus on gaining knowledge about the decisional domain (learning focus). Furthermore, people differ in the strength of their epistemic needs—their preference for developing a rich and accurate understanding of the world. We invoke the regulatory fit theory to predict that higher epistemic needs better fit a learning focus than lower epistemic needs, resulting in a greater increase in valuation of the chosen option when a learning rather than an outcome focus is induced. This general hypothesis was tested and supported in three studies, each focusing on a different proxy to epistemic needs. Thus, individuals experienced greater value when they had lower expertise (Study 1), higher need for assessment (Study 2), and higher need for cognition (Study 3) when a learning rather than an outcome focus was induced. Implications for work on epistemic needs, regulatory fit theory, and decision-making practice are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.