We often make decisions repeatedly. In these repeated-decision situations, consumers' prior knowledge and experiences based on consumption have been assumed to influence their current choice processes and outcomes. However, the research literature is currently silent as to how the influence of prior decision processes or outcomes operates in making subsequent decisions. To fill this gap, this dissertation investigates the impact of previous decisions on subsequent ones.
We propose that the decision structure of an initial decision can differentially affect a subsequent one. Specifically, we compare the impact of trade-off- (i.e., the decision when no option is superior to the other option among all attributes) versus dominance-related initial decisions (i.e., the decision when one option is superior to and at least not inferior to the other option among all attributes). Based on the different research streams, we suggest competing predictions regarding the role of previous decision structure on subsequent choices. One stream of research from resource- or effort-based explanations (e.g., effort-as-information and resource availability) suggests that the tendency to keep a previous choice will be stronger in the trade-off versus the dominance condition. On the other hand, the other research stream from non-resource- or non-effort-based explanations (e.g., justification and regret/negative emotional research) suggests the opposite prediction (i.e., the tendency to keep a previous choice will be stronger in the dominance versus the trade-off condition).
In six studies, we found empirical evidence for the impact of previous decisions on subsequent ones. We mainly found that people who made an initial trade-off decision (vs. those who made a dominance decision) were more likely to stick to their previously chosen alternative. In addition, the empirical studies supported the notion that the underlying mechanism of this pattern was due to the "resource availability" mechanism rather than the "effort-as-information: previous effort spending as a source of information for judgment" mechanism.