Whether you understand what this means or not, it’s probably going to cost you.
After recently replacing our malfunctioning old wall oven with a sleek new stainless steel double oven, I think we’re actually experiencing such “aesthetic incongruity” in my house—because the new unit makes the rest of the kitchen look like crap. The new oven, in other, more tasteful words, is aesthetically incongruous with its surroundings. As for a resolution, well, I’m not all that eager to drop more money redoing the counters and cabinets to match the hot new member of our (mostly) functioning kitchen.
But when you get a fancy new item—could be designer shoes, or a big flat-screen TV, or a painting to hang in the living room—there’s a natural tendency for a domino effect to take place. Putting that painting up, for instance, may stir up a feeling that the entire living room needs to be redone. The vague discomfort felt when you’ve got nothing to wear with those new shoes won’t be resolved until you’ve purchased a new dress and accessories—perhaps a whole new wardrobe—that complement that single pair of shoes.
Consumer psychologists call this tendency “aesthetic incongruity resolution,” and Time‘s Sean Gregory writes about some recent research experiments that reveal just how likely, and how far, consumers are willing to go to resolve their aesthetic issues.