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Post-purchase rationalization

Post-purchase rationalization

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Post-purchase rationalization is a cognitive bias
Cognitive bias
A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment that occurs in particular situations. Implicit in the concept of a "pattern of deviation" is a standard of comparison; this may be the judgment of people outside those particular situations, or may be a set of independently verifiable...

 whereby someone who purchases an expensive product or service overlooks any faults or defects in order to justify their purchase. It is a special case of choice-supportive bias
Choice-supportive bias
In cognitive science, choice-supportive bias is the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has selected. It is a cognitive bias....


Expensive purchases often involve a lot of careful research and deliberation, and many consumers will often refuse to admit that their decision was made in poor judgement. Many purchasing decisions are made emotionally, based on factors such as brand-loyalty and advertising, and so are often rationalized retrospectively in an attempt to justify the choice.

For example, a consumer cannot decide between two popular video game console
Video game console
A video game console is an interactive entertainment computer or customized computer system that produces a video display signal which can be used with a display device to display a video game...

s, A and B, but in the end decides to purchase product A on the basis that many of their peers also own this console. After purchasing it, they find that product A has a minimal amount of games and product B has more titles that the consumer would like to play. However, they do not wish to feel they made the wrong decision, and so will convince themselves, and their peers, that product A is better than product B, and the consumer's opinion is better than everyone's opinion, e.g. using sour grapes
Sour grapes
The phrase sour grapes is an expression originating from "The Fox and the Grapes," one of Aesop's Fables. It refers to pretending not to care for something one does not or cannot have.Sour grapes may also refer to:-Music:...


This rationalization is based on the principle of commitment and the psychological desire to stay consistent to that commitment. Some authorities would also consider this rationalization a manifestation of cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying,...


See also

  • Buyer's remorse
    Buyer's remorse
    Buyer's remorse is the sense of regret after having made a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of an expensive item such as a car or house...

  • Fanboy
  • Sunk cost
    Sunk cost
    In economics and business decision-making, sunk costs are retrospective costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Sunk costs are sometimes contrasted with prospective costs, which are future costs that may be incurred or changed if an action is taken...

  • Choice-supportive bias
    Choice-supportive bias
    In cognitive science, choice-supportive bias is the tendency to retroactively ascribe positive attributes to an option one has selected. It is a cognitive bias....

  • Escalation of commitment
    Escalation of commitment
    Escalation of commitment was first described by Barry M. Staw in his 1976 paper, "Knee deep in the big muddy: A study of escalating commitment to a chosen course of action"...

  • List of cognitive biases
  • Friendly Fraud
    Friendly Fraud
    Friendly fraud, also known as friendly fraud chargeback, is a credit card industry term used to describe a consumer who makes an Internet purchase with his/her own credit card and then issues a chargeback through his/her card provider after receiving the goods or services...