Labels Affect Both Liking and Preference: The Better the Stimuli, the Bigger the Preference

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When hedonic contrast causes stimuli to become less good, it also reduces subjects’ preferences between them (hedonic condensation). Here we investigated whether the reduction in preference is a by-product of hedonic contrast or can occur as a result of other manipulations that increase the negativity of the stimuli. Subjects smelled and rated their degrees of preference for each of two sets of paired cheese samples (some subjects were told that they were smelling cheeses, and the others, body odor samples). They then smelled each of the four samples, labeled as before, one at a time, and rated their intensity and liking for each sample. We found no effect of label on the intensity ratings, but subjects who were told that the samples were body odor liked them less and showed less of a preference between paired samples. Thus, increasing the negativity of pairs of stimuli reduces subjects’ preference between them, even in the absence of hedonic contrast. More-negative stimuli might be attended to less than more-positive stimuli, resulting in less hedonic discrimination of hedonically negative than of positive stimuli.



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