How Do People Form Ideas about What They Like and Dislike?
Humans talk about their preferences, communicate their values, and seem to use their ideas about what they love and loathe as the basis for countless decisions...from filtering through potential dates on a dating website, to choosing a restaurant, to deciding among potential job candidates to invite for an interview. But where do these ideas come from? Are they accurate? And do they matter?
Toward an Integrative Framework for Studying Human Evaluation
Evaluation is central to human experience, and researchers from multiple and disparate traditions have studied it. In a recent theoretical paper, we sought to pull together the literatures on attitudes, human mate preferences, nonhuman mate preferences, and consumer behavior to build a more comprehensive framework for studying evaluation. First, we distinguish between evaluations of objects (persons, places, and things) and evaluations of attributes (dimensions, traits, and characteristics). Then, we further distinguish between summarized attribute preferences (a valenced response to a direction on a dimension, such as liking sweetness in desserts or experience in a political candidate) and functional attribute preferences (a valenced response to increasing levels of a dimension in a set of targets, such as the extent to which sweetness predicts liking for desserts, or the extent to which experience predicts liking for political candidates). Pulling apart these constructs creates space to ask new questions, including: How people translate functional into summarized preferences? How do attribute preferences affect subsequent evaluations of objects? And how do functional and/or summarized preferences guide situation selection?
Our recent and current projects tackle questions such as: How do people infer their summarized preferences from their functional preferences, and what factors bias this inference process? When and how do summarized and functional preferences guide situation selection? And when and how do summarized and functional preferences reciprocally influence each other?