How actions change liking: The effect of an action’s outcome on the evaluation of the action’s object.

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People like positive objects (e.g., fun activities) and dislike negative objects (e.g., boring activities). However, objects usually do not appear in isolation; They are often objects of an action (e.g., the boring activities were canceled). Using a wide array of stimuli and procedures, 11 experiments (N = 5,573) found that evaluation of objects is biased by the outcome of an action performed on the objects. For example, when participants read that a gene increases the likelihood of possessing the trait kindness (an action with a positive outcome), they evaluated kindness more positively than after reading the gene inhibits the trait (an action with a negative outcome). Conversely, they disliked dishonesty more after reading about genes that increased dishonesty than after reading about genes that decreased dishonesty. The effect was incompatible with logical inference from the information provided. We found evidence that misattribution of the valence of the action’s outcome to the action’s object contributes to this effect. These findings extend knowledge about the factors that lead to evaluative change. Importantly, the results demonstrate a recursive evaluation process: The valence of the outcome of an action on the object determines the evaluation of the object, but the valence of the outcome is already based on a previous evaluation of the object itself. We discuss the possible implications of our findings to a wide range of research domains, such as moral judgment and economic decisions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)