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Pavlovian Processes in Consumer Choice: The Physical Presence of a Good Increases Willingness-to-Pay


  • Benjamin Bushong
  • Lindsay M. King
  • Colin F. Camerer
  • Antonio Rangel


This paper describes a series of laboratory experiments studying whether the form in which items are displayed at the time of decision affects the dollar value that subjects place on them. Using a Becker-DeGroot auction under three different conditions — (i) text displays, (ii) image displays, and (iii) displays of the actual items — we find that subjects' willingness-to-pay is 40-61 percent larger in the real than in the image and text displays. Furthermore, follow-up experiments suggest the presence of the real item triggers preprogrammed consummatory Pavlovian processes that promote behaviors that lead to contact with appetitive items whenever they are available. (JEL C91, D03, D12, D87)

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin Bushong & Lindsay M. King & Colin F. Camerer & Antonio Rangel, 2010. "Pavlovian Processes in Consumer Choice: The Physical Presence of a Good Increases Willingness-to-Pay," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1556-1571, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:100:y:2010:i:4:p:1556-71
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.100.4.1556

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jack L. Knetsch & J. A. Sinden, 1984. "Willingness to Pay and Compensation Demanded: Experimental Evidence of an Unexpected Disparity in Measures of Value," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 99(3), pages 507-521.
    2. Solnick, Sara J., 2007. "Cash and alternate methods of accounting in an experimental game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 316-321, February.
    3. Klaus Wertenbroch, 1998. "Consumption Self-Control by Rationing Purchase Quantities of Virtue and Vice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(4), pages 317-337.
    4. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-1348, December.
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    1. Weekend Links
      by Liam Delaney in Geary Behaviour Centre on 2011-01-28 21:49:00


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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:ijrema:v:30:y:2013:i:3:p:304-307 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Canavari, Maurizio & Drichoutis, Andreas C. & Lusk, Jayson L. & Nayga, Rodolfo, 2018. "How to run an experimental auction: A review of recent advances," MPRA Paper 89715, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Alexander Peysakhovich & Uma R. Karmarkar, 2016. "Asymmetric Effects of Favorable and Unfavorable Information on Decision Making Under Ambiguity," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 62(8), pages 2163-2178, August.
    4. Ma, Marshall (Xiaoyin) & Noussair, Charles & Renneboog, Luc, 2019. "Colors, Emotions, and the Auction Value of Paintings," Discussion Paper 2019-006, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    5. repec:spr:amsrev:v:5:y:2015:i:1:d:10.1007_s13162-015-0066-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Spantig, Lisa, 2019. "Cash in Hand and Savings Decisions," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 180, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    7. repec:kap:theord:v:86:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s11238-018-9673-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Teresa Briz & Andreas Drichoutis & Lisa House, 2015. "Examining projection bias in experimental auctions: the role of hunger and immediate gratification," Agricultural and Food Economics, Springer;Italian Society of Agricultural Economics (SIDEA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-17, December.
    9. Korenok, Oleg & Millner, Edward & Razzolini, Laura, 2017. "Feelings of ownership in dictator games," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 145-151.
    10. repec:eee:ijrema:v:32:y:2015:i:4:p:333-342 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2012. "Interpreting Time Horizon Effects in Inter-Temporal Choice," CESifo Working Paper Series 3750, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. Shimokawa, Satoru, 2016. "Why can calorie posting be apparently ineffective? The roles of two conflicting learning effects," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 107-120.
    13. Ma, X., 2019. "Essays on alternative investments," Other publications TiSEM 7f4d5b36-96cb-4eac-ae91-f, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    14. Shimokawa, Satoru, 2013. "Two Asymmetric and Conflicting Learning Effects of Calorie Posting on Overeating: Laboratory Snack Choice Experiment," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 149687, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    15. Marcel Lichters & Marko Sarstedt & Bodo Vogt, 2015. "On the practical relevance of the attraction effect: A cautionary note and guidelines for context effect experiments," Business & Information Systems Engineering: The International Journal of WIRTSCHAFTSINFORMATIK, Springer;Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. (GI), vol. 5(1), pages 1-19, June.
    16. Ernst Fehr & Antonio Rangel, 2011. "Neuroeconomic Foundations of Economic Choice--Recent Advances," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 3-30, Fall.
    17. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2012. "Interpreting Time Horizon Effects in Inter-Temporal Choice," CESifo Working Paper Series 3750, CESifo Group Munich.
    18. Cao, James & So, Kut C. & Yin, Shuya, 2016. "Impact of an “online-to-store” channel on demand allocation, pricing and profitability," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 248(1), pages 234-245.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D87 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Neuroeconomics


    This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
    1. Pavlovian Processes in Consumer Choice: The Physical Presence of a Good Increases Willingness-to-Pay (AER 2011) in ReplicationWiki


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