Reference Price and Price Perceptions: A Comparison of Alternative Models
Reference price effects on consumer price perceptions are often explained by Helson's adaptation-level theory, in which the cognitive representation of reference price is the prototype of the relevant category. However, recent conceptualizations and empirical evidence suggest the possibility of an exemplar model, which may be specified using Volkmann's range theory or Parducci's range-frequency theory. In two experiments, these three contextual models of reference price effects are pitted against one another. Based on the MANOVA and model fitting, range-frequency theory accounted for reference price effects that the other theories could not, suggesting that consumers compare the target price against specific members of the category rather than the category prototype. A third experiment demonstrated that range and frequency effects are moderated by the stimulus presentation condition, suggesting that consumers place greater weight on extreme prices anchoring the range for internal reference prices than for external reference prices. Copyright 2001 by the University of Chicago.
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