Comparison Effects on Preference Construction
Consumers frequently compare alternatives to make similarity and preference judgments. Recent research suggests that the construction of both similarity and preference judgments can be captured by a feature-matching model that allows for shifts in the relative weights assigned to the various features of the alternatives being compared. An implication of this model is that engaging in one comparative process (e.g., similarity) can influence the relative weight assigned to the features that are considered in a second comparative judgment (e.g., preference). Our main proposition that the type and direction of the initial comparison process has a systematic effect on subsequent preference judgments and choice was tested in a series of studies. One study, which focused on alternatives about which consumers have information in memory, shows that the direction of an initial comparison task that elicits differences between two options systematically alters their relative attractiveness in a subsequent preference task. In two subsequent studies, the effect of engaging in an initial comparison task on subsequent preference judgments was tested for stimulus-based choice sets. The results on choice deferral and choice satisfaction were consistent with the notion that engaging in similarity/dissimilarity comparisons altered the relative weight assigned to common and unique features for the two alternatives. Mouselab was used to support the decision mechanisms underlying the effect of the initial similarity/dissimilarity judgments. An additional study examined how the effect of adding common features on subsequent preference was also contingent on the initial comparison task. We conclude with a study involving real consequences and a discussion of the theoretical and practical goals of our findings. Copyright 1999 by the University of Chicago.
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