The Zero-Comparison Effect
This research investigates the effect of a zero-value attribute on consumer choice. It is argued that a zero attribute removes a reference point that consumers use to evaluate the size of attribute differences. As a consequence, the shift from a number to zero can make an advantage (or disadvantage) that seemed large and clear in the presence of a reference point become less clear and thus less impactful when a reference point is removed. This leads to an interesting effect, whereby an option can improve its choice share by increasing the level of an undesirable attribute from zero or decreasing the level of a desirable attribute to zero. A series of four experiments provide supporting evidence for this new choice phenomenon.
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