| Do People Use Effort to Judge Quality?
Imagine that a friend has told you that she has finally finished her novel and it took five years to write. Would you perceive the novel to be of higher value or quality than if she told you it took only six months to write? Would you think a publisher would provide a fairly high advance for the book if it was published?
There is evidence to suggest that people use effort to judge the quality of something. In three studies, Kruger, Wirtz, Van Boven, and Altermatt (2004) found evidence for what they callled the effort heuristic. In the first experiment, people evaluated a poem with respect to how much they liked the poem, the overall quality of the poem, and the amount of money a poetry magazine would pay for the poem. There were two conditions in this study: low effort and high effort. The participants in the low effort condition were told that the writer spent 4 hours on the poem. In contrast, the participants in the high effort condition were told that the writer spent 18 hours on the poem. They combined the liking and quality measures into one composite measure. The mean for the composite measure of liking/overall quality was higher in the high effort condition than in the low effort condition. Moreover, the median perceived monetary value of the poem was higher in the high effort condition than in the low effort condition.
The findings of the second and third experiments also supported the idea that people use effort to judge quality. The findings of the third experiment also suggest that people may be more likely to judge quality by the amount of effort when it is difficult to judge the quality of something.
These findings may have important practical implications. Knowing how much effort it took to produce something could create a bias in the evaluation of quality or value.
Kruger, J., Wirtz, D., Van Boven, L., & Altermatt, T. W. (2004). The effort
heuristic. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 91-98.