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Context effects: A representation of choices from categories


  • Barbos, Andrei


This paper studies a model of reference-dependent choice from sets of options grouped into categories. The proposed model is consistent with experimental evidence documenting context effects in a variety of choice situations. In our model, the reference point for any given category is subjective, and corresponds to the least preferred element in the category under consideration. Every object in a category is evaluated relative to the corresponding reference point; this may distort the objective ranking of options across different categories, and thus possibly give rise to a context-effects bias. The resulting representation is essentially unique. We also provide an economic application of the preferences that we axiomatize to principal-agent models. We show how sellers facing consumers exhibiting the context-effects bias can increase their profits by exploiting their bounded rationality.

Suggested Citation

  • Barbos, Andrei, 2010. "Context effects: A representation of choices from categories," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(3), pages 1224-1243, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:145:y:2010:i:3:p:1224-1243

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
    2. Botond Kőszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2006. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1133-1165.
    3. Kopylov, Igor, 2009. "Finite additive utility representations for preferences over menus," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(1), pages 354-374, January.
    4. Hsee, Christopher K & Leclerc, France, 1998. " Will Products Look More Attractive When Presented Separately or Together?," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(2), pages 175-186, September.
    5. Dekel, Eddie & Lipman, Barton L & Rustichini, Aldo, 2001. "Representing Preferences with a Unique Subjective State Space," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 891-934, July.
    6. William Neilson, 2006. "Axiomatic reference-dependence in behavior toward others and toward risk," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 28(3), pages 681-692, August.
    7. Todd Sarver, 2008. "Anticipating Regret: Why Fewer Options May Be Better," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(2), pages 263-305, March.
    8. Huber, Joel & Payne, John W & Puto, Christopher, 1982. " Adding Asymmetrically Dominated Alternatives: Violations of Regularity and the Similarity Hypothesis," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 90-98, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sürücü, Oktay, 2016. "Welfare improving discrimination based on cognitive limitations," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(4), pages 608-622.
    2. André Lapied & Thomas Rongiconi, 2013. "Ambiguity as a Source of Temptation: Modeling Unstable Beliefs," Working Papers halshs-00797631, HAL.
    3. Sürücü, Oktay & Brangewitz, Sonja & Mir Djawadi, Behnud, 2017. "Asymmetric dominance effect with multiple decoys for low- and high-variance lotteries," Center for Mathematical Economics Working Papers 574, Center for Mathematical Economics, Bielefeld University.
    4. Barbos, Andrei, 2013. "A reference-dependent representation with subjective tastes," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 111-123.
    5. Maltz, Amnon, "undated". "Rational Choice with Category Bias," Working Papers WP2015/4, University of Haifa, Department of Economics, revised 18 Nov 2015.
    6. O'Callaghan, Patrick, 2013. "Ordinal, nonlinear context dependence," Risk and Sustainable Management Group Working Papers 152450, University of Queensland, School of Economics.
    7. Riella, Gil, 2013. "Preference for Flexibility and Dynamic Consistency," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 148(6), pages 2467-2482.
    8. SATO, Motohiro & SAITO, Makoto, 2011. "The context effect in the choice of earthquake insurance contracts in Japan," Discussion Papers 2011-10, Graduate School of Economics, Hitotsubashi University.


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