On a hot summer day, a fox would wander through an orchard until it came to a bunch of grapes ripening on a vine that had been erected on a large branch. „Just things to quench my thirst,” he said. He took a few steps back, ran and jumped, and narrowly missed the pile. He turned around again with one, two, three and jumped, but without much success. He continued to try to look for the tempting bite, but eventually had to abandon it and left with his nose in the air, saying, „I`m sure they are.” Study 3 attempted to replicate the sourgrape effect in a controlled laboratory experiment, while adding two new aspects to the previous results. In addition to measuring the identity relevance of Study 2, we included an additional mediating variable that also indicates cognitive dissonance, i.e. the extent to which the cognitive ability in question was considered important for future success in life. In addition, we changed the outcome measurement of happiness prognosis The idea that people would react to such rewards by devaluing them was expressed in Aesop`s classic fable about the fox and grapes. After unsuccessfully jumping to reach a bunch of sweet grapes hanging too high above its head, the fox changed its mind and decided that they were probably sour anyway (e.g., Magpie 1983; Temple, Temple and Temple, 1998). In contrast, the English proverb „The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” suggests that people may consider unattainable rewards to be particularly desirable.
From the point of view of this saying, the fox should have thought that these removed grapes were very sweet and not sour. We find that this pair of opposing narratives may seem equally plausible, but they cannot both be right at the same time under well-defined conditions. Based on psychological theory and previous research, the current investigation subjected these competing snippets of folk wisdom to a series of experimental tests. I don`t know if you wrote this article today partly because of that or not, but part of it is about the same study. However, instead of adopting a „sour grapes” attitude, Gilbert shows how we can be happy with what we have. Several lines of work converge to make the sour grape hypothesis plausible. Research on people with disabilities (Berglas & Jones, 1978) has shown that people respond to situations that subjectively contain hard-to-achieve goals by withdrawing their efforts and trying to protect themselves from the effects of failure, even at the cost of increasing the likelihood of failure. Shepperd, Findley-Klein, Kwavnick, Walker and Perez (2000) found that people revise their expectations downwards when feedback is imminent, apparently as a strategic move to protect themselves from possible disappointment. One study focused on mental adjustment to uncontrollable events and found that participants who felt very confident that they had lost a dating game rated the date more negatively than participants who believed they still had a fair chance (Wilson, Wheatley, Kurtz, Dunn, & Gilbert, 2004). Other research has shown that favorable and unfavorable outcomes are considered more desirable when their perceived likelihood increases, both in a presidential election and in possible changes in university tuition fees (Kay, Jimenez, & Jost, 2002). While none of these results directly predict how people would react to the current situation, they have a common theme that people try to avoid and minimize disappointment, and so they could all fit the sourgrape hypothesis that people would devalue future rewards if they believe they are unlikely to be earned. Three groups of participants (n1 = 18, n2 = 24, n3 = 24) were recruited to participate in slightly different versions of our new paradigm of free choice (Exp 1-3; see methods and Fig.
1 for details). In all 3 experiments, assessment tasks alternated with selection tasks. In the assessment tasks, participants placed a cursor on an analog scale to indicate the sympathy of each food. In the selection task, foods with a certain level of strength were matched and participants decided whether they wanted to press the handle on the target for the imposed (constant) duration or simply move on to the next attempt. In all experiments, the most important noticeable difference is the definition of choice (accept or reject the offer). In Exp 1-2, the choice was implicit: the acceptance criterion was defined as the fact that participants pushed the handle beyond the minimum level required to obtain a food (peak power > 20% Fmax). This is an indicator that the participants tried to achieve the goal and get the article. Conversely, in Exp 3, the choice was explicit: participants could accept or decline the offer (by pressing the „Yes” and „No” buttons) and then press the handle to try to get the item. Other changes have been introduced as additional controls. Notably, 30 additional items were assessed in Exp 2-3, but were not presented in the screening task to assess the exposure effect (simply seeing the items during selection could change their value). In addition, the matching of foods and power targets was consistent in Exp 1, but was redesigned in Exp 2-3 to prevent participants from simply repeating the same choice instead of evaluating the offer. Other differences were minor and aimed at improving design efficiency, although they didn`t bring much improvement in the end.
Copyright: © 2019 Vinckier et al. It is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which allows unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. It is important to note that none of the above studies directly addressed how people would evaluate future goals after poor initial performance. Therefore, the present study builds on the literature on happiness prognosis and expands it by asking another question: will the expected value of future success tend to increase (greener grass) or decrease (sour grapes) after initial failure? In addition, less is known about the boundary conditions and underlying mechanisms of target devaluation and the self-protection strategies that people can use to predict their future well-being. We therefore included established characteristic measures of fear of failure and motivation for performance as potential moderating variables and personal and future relevance of given performance as potential mediating variables. It may seem pretty clear that these women simply remember the device they want to take home and then adjust their ranking accordingly. But a team led by Matthew Lieberman wondered if there was another explanation for their behavior. If people who don`t remember the items they`ve chosen also exhibit „sour grape” behavior, then memory may not be involved at all. The researchers found 12 volunteers with anterograde amnesia – who don`t remember events a few minutes ago. They also tested 12 people with normal memory on a modified version of Brehm`s test.
It is not clear whether an anticipated devaluation would result in a reduction in the subjective enjoyment of success at the time it occurs. If you have devalued success in advance, it may or may not be less satisfying. Early work on the irreversibility of dissonance reduction processes suggests that devaluing success would actually make it less satisfying (Lepper, Zanna & Abelson, 1970). In recent research, one study found no influence of previous expectations on current emotion (Golub, Gilbert, & Wilson, 2009), while a second study found that optimistic expectations after a poor test score can lead to greater disappointment (Sweeny & Shepperd, 2010). Therefore, the existing evidence is mixed. In other words, in Aesop`s tale, the fox slipped in, leaving the grapes intact, and so we don`t know how much he would have really enjoyed them, especially if he had tasted them after declaring them probably acidic. Imagine for a moment that after a long struggle, Fox managed to get the grapes that were actually acidic. Would he still have found the sour grapes? In this research, we tested competing speculations on greener grass and sour grapes by reformulating them as testable and theoretical hypotheses. We experimentally manipulated performance feedback in a test, creating favorable or unfavorable expectations for the upcoming study. Participants then predicted how happy they would be if they passed and scored highest, which allowed us to test whether participants with a bad return in the first round would devalue the reward (sour grapes) or enjoy it all the more (greener grass). In two of the studies, participants actually completed this second task and received excellent feedback later in the experiment, which allowed us to measure whether their predictions were correct. In a conceptual extension, we forwent manipulated feedback and created similar expectations by simply reminding some participants of their current grade point average before measuring their predictions about how lucky they were to finish with a high A average.
The fable says that the fox sees delicious grapes in an orchard, but cannot reach them. After several attempts to reach the grapes, he gives up and says, „They were probably sour anyway.” Data availability: All data files and analysis scripts are available on github.com/lionel-rigoux/sour-grapes-and-sweet-victories. The VBA toolkit, which is required to run code, can be downloaded from github.com/MBB-team/VBA-toolbox. Like the grapes in Aesop`s fable, certain foods have been associated with unattainable levels of strength, introducing cases of failure. We actually found that our subjects, as a famous fox, rated items they couldn`t get as less desirable than originally thought. The usual interpretation for the fox who despises what he could not get is that he tries to avoid regret or humiliation and maintain the illusion that he is in control.