The positivity effect in judgments of personal experiences is a well-established finding. In this article, we posit that this effect may not manifest in the case of product experiences. We base this on literature that suggests that social stimuli (such as personal experiences) are more ambiguous than nonsocial stimuli (such as experiences associated with products). Because of this ambiguity, construal processes are more likely to occur for social versus nonsocial stimuli, increasing the likelihood of the operation of self-serving theories in social judgments. Experiment 1 reveals that positive personal experiences are more likely to be retrieved than negative personal experiences; however, there is no difference in recall of positive and negative product experiences. Experiments 2 and 3 extend this finding to judgments of past and future experiences, respectively, and replicate the better-than-average effect for personal, but not product, experiences. Experiment 4 then examines the motivational underpinnings of construal processes and shows that construals can operate even for relatively unambiguous product experiences when participants believe such experiences implicate the self.
Journal of Consumer Psychologyvol.
6, (January 01, 1997):