Using aesthetics and self-affirmation to encourage openness to risky (and safe) choices

Suzanne B. Shu, Claudia Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Research has shown self-affirmation to be a powerful tool for increasing openness to arguments. However, prior examinations of its effects involved manipulations with limited applicability outside the laboratory. Building on recent work suggesting that choice of highly aesthetic products can be a form of affirmation, we proposed and tested whether merely affiliating people with high aesthetics can affirm their sense of self and thus encourage openness to arguments advocating selection of one option over another. In 3 experiments we examined this effect in financial and consumer decisions in which choices varied in their inherent risk. Across the experiments, after affiliating people with high (vs. low) aesthetics, they were more likely to select the advocated option-whether that option was the riskier or less risky option. This occurred using actual annual reports and a sample of experienced investors (Experiment 1), when the aesthetic affiliation and the choice tasks were in entirely unrelated areas (Experiment 2) and was driven by greater openness to arguments (Experiment 3). Together these studies offer a self-affirmation manipulation that is relevant and easily used by practitioners in a variety of fields. They also provide novel insights on the link between aesthetics, self-affirmation, openness, and risk taking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-39
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Aesthetics
  • Openness
  • Risk
  • Self-affirmation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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