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

Michail D. Kokkoris*, Ulrich Kühnen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-48
Number of pages15
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Choice
  • Dissonance
  • Motivation
  • Opinion
  • Self-expression


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