When It Could Have Been Worse, It Gets Better: How Favorable Uncertainty Resolution Slows Hedonic Adaptation


Journal of Consumer Research

February 2017, vol. 43, n°5, pp.747–768

Departments: Marketing, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Keywords: hedonic adaptation, happiness, uncertainty, favorable uncertainty resolution

Thankfully, most product consumption experiences are positive. Unfortunately, however, those positive experiences are not always guaranteed to occur, and defects creep into the consumer experience. Though its assertion runs counter to most prescriptions, the current research proposes that exposing consumers to the mere possibility of these negative experiences, occurring in a consumption sequence increases consumers’ happiness with those experiences overtime. Six studies demonstrate this effect and further show that this effect is driven by hedonic responses as a result of favorable uncertainty resolution. That is, with the mere possibility of a negative experience, a consumer, who actually experiences a positive outcome, is likely to feel relief or pleasantness from not having to experience the negative experience. This research enriches existing literature on hedonic adaptation and uncertainty and has significant implications for consumer behavior