Decision-Induced Preference Modulation: An Inference Account and the Differential Impact of Choose versus Reject Framing



Psychologists have long been intrigued by decision-induced changes in preferences, where making a decision strengthens one’s relative preference between more and less preferred options. This phenomenon has been explained either through two prominent theories: a dissonance account, which suggests that it results from the decision-maker’s attempt to minimize an unpleasant emotional-motivational state of “dissonance,” and an inference account, which posits that it reflects a process of inferring and updating one’s “true” preferences. In the current research, we investigate whether, how, and why framing a decision as a choice or a rejection influences decision-induced preference modulation. Across thirteen pre-registered experiments including seven (N = 6,248) reported in the main text, we find that reject-framed decisions induce greater post-decision preference modulation (i.e., a larger post-decision preference gap between options) than choose-framed decisions in binary decisions between attractive options. Supporting the inference explanation, the framing effect is consistently mediated by perceived action diagnosticity and moderated by attribute similarity and choice-set valence. In contrast, we found no support for process measures and purported moderators of the dissonance account. Additionally, our studies use multiple methods to address potential confounds associated with varying levels of “noise” in preference expression through decisions, resolving methodological tensions observed in previous paradigms. Our findings suggest that preference changes following everyday decisions primarily stem from an ongoing process of information inference and updating, rather than dissonance reduction. These contributions advance future research on preference modulation and offer novel insights into the downstream consequences of framing interventions in the real world.