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Goal-Based Construction of Preferences: Task Goals and the Prominence Effect

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Author Info

  • Gregory W. Fischer

    (Duke University, Fuqua School of Business, Durham, North Carolina 27708)

  • Ziv Carmon

    (Duke University, Fuqua School of Business, Durham, North Carolina 27708)

  • Dan Ariely

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139)

  • Gal Zauberman

    (Duke University, Fuqua School of Business, Durham, North Carolina 27708)

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    Abstract

    Preferences inferred from choice are more likely to favor the alternative that is superior with respect to the prominent (most important or salient) attribute than are preferences inferred from matching (direct tradeoff) judgments. This prominence effect violates standard models of rational choice and complicates the task of measuring preferences. In this article, we propose a new task-goal hypothesisregarding the prominence effect: The prominent attribute receives more weight in tasks whose goal is to differentiate among options than in tasks whose goal is to equate options. We use this hypothesis to generalize the prominence effect beyond choice and matching to several additional tasks, including the choice-based matching and difference comparison methods that are widely employed in decision analysis. The results of three studies provide strong support for the task-goal account of the prominence effect and cast doubt on competing explanations. We discuss the implications of these findings for descriptive decision theory and for preference measurement in decision analysis, public policy, and marketing.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.45.8.1057
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 45 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 8 (August)
    Pages: 1057-1075

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:45:y:1999:i:8:p:1057-1075

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    Related research

    Keywords: multiattribute utility; preference assessment; preference reversals; prominence effect; task goals;

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    Cited by:
    1. Johnson, Eric J. & Gächter, Simon & Herrmann, Andreas, 2006. "Exploring the Nature of Loss Aversion," IZA Discussion Papers 2015, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Fox, Craig R. & Levav, Jonathan, 2000. "Familiarity Bias and Belief Reversal in Relative Likelihood Judgment," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 268-292, July.
    3. Marek Hudík, 2013. "When x Becomes x': Sameness and the Internal Consistency of Choice," ICER Working Papers 02-2013, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
    4. Irwin, Julie R. & Baron, Jonathan, 2001. "Response Mode Effects and Moral Values," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 177-197, March.
    5. Han Bleichrodt & Jose Maria Abellan-Perpiñan & Jose Luis Pinto-Prades & Ildefonso Mendez-Martinez, 2007. "Resolving Inconsistencies in Utility Measurement Under Risk: Tests of Generalizations of Expected Utility," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(3), pages 469-482, March.
    6. Willemsen, Martijn C. & Keren, Gideon, 2003. "The meaning of indifference in choice behavior: Asymmetries in adjustments embodied in matching," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 342-359, March.
    7. José Lara Resende & George Wu, 2010. "Competence effects for choices involving gains and losses," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 40(2), pages 109-132, April.
    8. Rong Chen & Jianmin Jia, 2005. "Consumer Choices Under Small Probabilities: Overweighting or Underweighting?," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 5-18, January.
    9. Suk, Kwanho & Yoon, Song-Oh, 2012. "The moderating role of decision task goals in attribute weight convergence," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 118(1), pages 37-45.
    10. Young, Diana L. & Goodie, Adam S. & Hall, Daniel B. & Wu, Eric, 2012. "Decision making under time pressure, modeled in a prospect theory framework," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 118(2), pages 179-188.
    11. Deparis, Stéphane & Mousseau, Vincent & Öztürk, Meltem & Pallier, Christophe & Huron, Caroline, 2012. "When conflict induces the expression of incomplete preferences," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 221(3), pages 593-602.
    12. Yves Alarie & Georges Dionne, 2005. "Testing Explanations of Preference Reversal: a Model," Cahiers de recherche 0510, CIRPEE.
    13. Barlas, Sema, 2003. "When choices give in to temptations: Explaining the disagreement among importance measures," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 91(2), pages 310-321, July.
    14. Comerford, David A. & Ubel, Peter A., 2013. "Effort Aversion: Job choice and compensation decisions overweight effort," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 152-162.
    15. Willemsen, Martijn C. & Keren, Gideon, 2002. "Negative-based prominence: the role of negative features in matching and choice," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 643-666, July.
    16. Joost M.E. Pennings & Philip Garcia, 2009. "The informational content of the shape of utility functions: financial strategic behavior," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 30(2), pages 83-90.
    17. Aurélien Baillon & Laure Cabantous & Peter Wakker, 2012. "Aggregating imprecise or conflicting beliefs: An experimental investigation using modern ambiguity theories," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 44(2), pages 115-147, April.
    18. David H. Krantz & Howard C. Kunreuther, 2007. "Goals and plans in decision making," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 2, pages 137-168, June.
    19. Huber, Joel & Ariely, Dan & Fischer, Gregory, 2002. "Expressing Preferences in a Principal-Agent Task: A Comparison of Choice, Rating, and Matching," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 66-90, January.

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