Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 34–48 | Cite as

You are (not only) what you choose: A self-expression account of post-choice dissonance

  • Michail D. Kokkoris
  • Ulrich Kühnen
Original Paper


After making a difficult choice people reduce dissonance by increasing liking for the chosen option and decreasing liking for the foregone option—an effect known as the “spreading-of-alternatives” (SOA). We suggest that this effect is partly driven by self-expression motivation. While choice is one act of self-expression, it is certainly not the only means individuals can use to express themselves. However, in the experimental settings used so far to examine the SOA effect, choice has always been the exclusive self-expression means. If the SOA effect is indeed partly driven by self-expression motivation, then providing additional means of self-expression should mitigate the SOA following choice. In two experiments we provided participants with the prospect of opinion voicing as an alternative means of self-expression and found that doing so reduced the SOA. We interpret this finding as evidence that post-choice dissonance is contingent upon the availability of self-expression means. Implications about choice and cognitive dissonance theory, as well as practical implications are discussed.


Dissonance Choice Opinion Self-expression Motivation 



This research was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) to the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS). The authors would like to thank Simona Botti for valuable comments, and Milan Andrejevic, Pia Greenshields, Sedef Güden, and Agata Kraj for assistance in data collection.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sociology and Social PsychologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Jacobs University BremenBremenGermany

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