Wanting, Liking, and Preference Construction

Xianchi Dai*, C. Miguel Brendl, Dan Ariely

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


According to theories on preference construction, multiple preferences result from multiple contexts (e.g., loss vs. gain frames). This implies that people can have different representations of a preference in different contexts. Drawing on Berridge's (1999) distinction between unconscious liking and wanting, we hypothesize that people may have multiple representations of a preference toward an object even within a single context. Specifically, we propose that people can have different representations of an object's motivational value, or incentive value, versus its emotional value, or likability, even when the object is placed in the same context. Study 1 establishes a divergence between incentive value and likability of faces using behavioral measures. Studies 2A and 2B, using self-report measures, provide support for our main hypothesis that people are perfectly aware of these distinct representations and are able to access them concurrently at will. We also discuss implications of our findings for the truism that people seek pleasure and for expectancy-value theories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-334
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2010


  • desire
  • gender differences
  • hedonic
  • implicit measures
  • impulse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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