"Motivated Expectation Setting and Its Unintended
Consequence on Satisfaction"
This research posits that consumers actively seek to manage their expectations and examines the consequences of such motivated expectation setting on satisfaction. Faced with uncertain outcomes (e.g., product performance), consumers are motivated to protect themselves from potential disconfirmation of their expectations and the negative affect that accompanies such a disconfirmation. The basic premise of this research is that people try to strategically manage their future affective states through strategic expectation management but that they are not very good at such management.
We predict that this is because counter to the initial intention, setting one's expectation low generates counterfactual thoughts of alternative outcomes or courses of action, such that, even upon confirmation of this expectation, one is dissatisfied. This prediction is inconsistent with the premise and the robust empirical findings of the expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm which posits that confirmation of one's expectation (positively-valenced) should at least lead to a moderate amount of satisfaction (Oliver 1997).
Recent research has suggested that faced with an uncertain
outcome, consumers deliberately lower their expectation so as to
ensure future satisfaction with the outcome. Specifically, Kopalle
and Lehmann (2001) find suggestive evidence that people lower
their expectations strategically, in anticipation of potential product
failure and the accompanying discomfort of having their expectancies
disconfirmed. This is consistent with the notion that people
maintain multiple expectation levels of a should (i.e., desired or
deserved) and a will (i.e., predicted) expectation (Boulding, Kalra,
Staelin and Zeithaml 1993). Kopalle and Lehmann's findings
demonstrate that people who are disconfirmation-sensitive are
motivated to set their expectations low, in anticipation of the
potential for negative disconfirmation.
Given the intuitive appeal of motivated expectation setting,
however, little research has looked at whether such forwardlooking
behavior does indeed lead to satisfaction as one intends and