Attention, attitudes, and action: When and why incidental fear increases consumer choice

Nicole Verrochi Coleman, Patti Williams, Andrea Ketcham, Andrew Edward White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Past research finds that general negativity inherent to a choice set increases deferral. In contrast, we adopt a functional perspective-linking fear to narrowed attention, negative expectations of the future, and an increased readiness for action- and propose that incidental fear increases the likelihood of consumer choice and reduces deferral. Six studies find consistent support for this view, using both hypothetical and consequential choices. We demonstrate that relative to other emotions (disgust, sadness, hope, pride, anger) and general feelings of uncertainty, those experiencing incidental fear choose significantly more and defer less. This increased choice, however, is realized only for decisions made in the present (vs. future), when information about the deferred options is not available. Importantly, increased choice from incidental fear is mediated by increased attention and liking. Moreover, we also demonstrate that individuals with high levels of trait fear (vs. trait anger) are more likely to choose and less likely to defer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-312
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Choice
  • Deferral
  • Emotion
  • Fear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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