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More than Just an Opinion: The Effect of Verbal Self-Expression on Consumer Choice

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ABSTRACT

In an ever-widening range of occasions, consumers have the opportunity to comment and express their opinions on brands and products. However, little is known about how voicing opinions about the choice options before actually choosing might affect consumer choice, and specifically liking of choice. This paper proposes that pre-choice opinion expression undermines the effect of post-choice bolstering, because opinion sufficiently satisfies self-expressive needs and therefore supersedes the use of subsequent choice as a self-expressive resource. This proposition is based on the assumption that opinion can psychologically substitute for choice, because the two represent alternative routes to self-expression. Two experiments provide empirical support for this hypothesis. Study 1 showed that after articulating their opinions about the choice options, participants were less likely to idealize their choices, and this effect was mediated by a change in the construal of choice as self-expression. Study 2 further showed that this effect is moderated by public versus private occasions of opinion voicing and by individual differences in the value of expression. Together, findings support that opinion is enough to express the self, and if such an opportunity is made available prior to choosing, consumers’ liking of their choices is weakened.

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