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
Kruger, J., Wirtz, D., Van Boven, L., & Altermatt, T. W. (2004). The effort
heuristic. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 91-98.