Aspects of Experiences: The Role of Novelty in Retrospective Summary Assessments

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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snapshot model
overall evaluation
remembered affect
hedonic psychology
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Many consumption episodes involve experiences that extend over time or comprise sequences of outcomes. Whether leisure activities, shopping visits, or service encounters, extended experiences vary in their novelty for consumers. While past work has studied the role of novelty in how episodes are experienced, in this dissertation I ask: How does the novelty of an experience impact its retrospective, overall evaluation? Previous research on the snapshot model observed that overall evaluations are based on only the most accessible snapshots of experiences. This past work largely focused on accessibility differences arising from serial positioning and intensity, whereas novelty stems from differences on stimulus or conceptual characteristics. In this dissertation, while demonstrating that novelty influences accessibility in overall evaluations, I also show that novelty’s effect depends on the timing and type of evaluation. As a basic effect, I find that novelty enhances the accessibility of affective experience: Aspects that are normally under-weighted in overall evaluations have a larger influence if these aspects are novel. Further, studying overall evaluations of affect at different points in time, I find that aspects that regularly influence immediate evaluations are more likely to impact delayed evaluations if these aspects are novel. Examining different evaluation types, I show that novelty has opposite effects for informational evaluations: Retrospective judgments of attribute quality levels are more accurate when an experience is common versus when it is unique—an effect driven by learning advantages that accrue through accumulated experience. Finally, I distinguish novelty from unfamiliarity by showing that novelty varies based on the number of past direct experiences but not indirect experiences (e.g., verbal descriptions of episodes) in a domain. Taken together, these findings augment our understanding of overall evaluations and explicate novelty. This dissertation also unites the snapshot model literature with other work on memory, learning, and affect.

Gal Zauberman
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