The Evaluative Advantage of Novel Alternatives: an Information Sampling Account

Authors: Gaël Le Mens, Yaakov Kareev and Judith Avrahami

Psychological Science, Vol. 27, No 2, 161-168, February, 2016

New products, services and ideas are often evaluated more favorably than similar but older items. Although several explanations exist, we identify an overlooked asymmetry in information about new and old items that emerges when people seek positive experiences and learn about the qualities of (noisy) alternatives by experiencing them. We analyze a simple learning model and demonstrate that in such settings most people will tend to evaluate a new alternative more positively than an older alternative with the same payoff distribution. The reason is that, when people seek positive experiences and thus avoid selecting again alternatives that led to poor payoffs, this precludes additional feedback on their qualities. Negative quality estimates, even when caused by noise thus tend to persist. This negative bias takes time to develop, and affects old alternatives more strongly than similar but newer alternatives. An experimental study with 769 participants supports the predictions of our model.