Sour grapes, sweet lemons, and the anticipatory rationalization of the status quo

Aaron C. Kay, Maria C. Jimenez, John T. Jost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Integrating theories of cognitive dissonance, system justification, and dynamic thought systems, the authors hypothesized that people would engage in anticipatory rationalization of sociopolitical outcomes for which they were not responsible. In two studies, the authors found that people adjusted their judgments of the desirability of a future event to make them congruent with its perceived likelihood, but only when the event triggered motivational involvement. In Study 1, a political survey administered to 288 Democrats, Republicans, and nonpartisans prior to the Bush-Gore presidential election manipulated the perceived likelihood that each candidate would win and measured the subjective desirability of each outcome. In Study 2, 203 undergraduate students rated the desirability of a large or small tuition increase or decrease that was low, medium, or high in likelihood. Under conditions evoking high motivational involvement, unfavorable as well as favorable outcomes were judged to be more desirable as their perceived likelihood increased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1300-1312
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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