Thursday, April 30, 2009

Choosing What Makes Us Happy (10): Medium Maximization

To obtain a desired outcome, people have to exert effort. However, the immediate reward may not be the outcome itself but a medium or instrument or token, which has no value in itself but can be traded for the desired outcome. People should be focusing on the relationship between their effort and the outcome, but they may put in more effort to pursue the medium. The presence of a medium could lead people to exert more effort but without a better outcome.

For example, a person may choose an airline which offers more frequent-flyer program points, rather than the one which provides a better experience but lesser points.


Hsee CK, Hastie R. Decision and experience: why don't we choose what makes us happy? Trends Cogn Sci. 2006 ;10:31-7. [Abstract]

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