How actions change liking: THE effect of an action's outcome on the evaluation of the action's object

Tal Moran, Yoav Bar-Anan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People like positive objects (e.g., fun activities) and dislike negative objects (e.g., boring activities). However, objects usually do not appear in isolation; They are often objects of an action (e.g., the boring activities were canceled). Using a wide array of stimuli and procedures, 11 experiments (N = 5,573) found that evaluation of objects is biased by the outcome of an action performed on the objects. For example, when participants read that a gene increases the likelihood of possessing the trait kindness (an action with a positive outcome), they evaluated kindness more positively than after reading the gene inhibits the trait (an action with a negative outcome). Conversely, they disliked dishonesty more after reading about genes that increased dishonesty than after reading about genes that decreased dishonesty. The effect was incompatible with logical inference from the information provided. We found evidence that misattribution of the valence of the action's outcome to the action's object contributes to this effect. These findings extend knowledge about the factors that lead to evaluative change. Importantly, the results demonstrate a recursive evaluation process: The valence of the outcome of an action on the object determines the evaluation of the object, but the valence of the outcome is already based on a previous evaluation of the object itself. We discuss the possible implications of our findings to a wide range of research domains, such as moral judgment and economic decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1597-1618
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by grants from the Israel Science Foundation [779/16], and the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation [2013214] to Yoav Bar-Anan, and from Project Implicit Inc. We thank Brian Nosek for his contribution to this work. Part of this work was presented at the Attitudes & Social Influence Preconference at the 18th annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, in San Antonio, Texas, January 19–21, 2017, and at the 18th general meeting of the European Association of Social Psychology in Granada, Spain, July 5–9, 2017.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Affective transfer
  • Attitudes
  • Evaluation
  • Misattribution
  • Social judgment


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