A Preference for Revision Absent Objective Improvement

Published on Feb 4, 2019in Social Science Research Network
· DOI :10.2139/SSRN.3329340
Ximena Garcia-Rada6
Estimated H-index: 6
Leslie K. John19
Estimated H-index: 19
+ 1 AuthorsMichael I. Norton71
Estimated H-index: 71
Things change. Things also get changed—often. Why? The obvious reason is that revising things often makes them better. We document a less obvious reason: revising things makes people think they are better, even absent objective improvement. Eleven studies document the preference for revision and provide insight into its psychological underpinnings. Studies 1A-1C document the effect among MBA students engaged in a resume revision process, while Studies 2 and 3 demonstrate the effect both experientially (eating candy) and via choice (of pens). Revisions are preferred even when trivially different from their predecessors (study 4A), and even when there is no difference between original and revised versions (study 4B). People overgeneralize their belief that revisers intend to improve their creations, and that revisions represent the successful fruition of those intentions (studies 5A and 5B); as a result, people are relatively uncritical of flaws in purportedly revised products (a video game; study 6), unless cued to doubt that revisers can be trusted (study 7).
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