Disambiguating the Role of Ambiguity in Perceptual Assimilation and Contrast Effects
We examine how perceptions of a product are affected by the presence of extreme exemplars and find that ambiguity of the product is an important moderator. When the target is a novel one, perceptions assimilate to the context, whereas when it is highly familiar, perceptions are immune to the influence of context. This is as predicted by the interpretation-comparison model. Contrary to this model, however, we find that effects on perceptions are not always assimilative in nature. When product ambiguity falls between the extremes of novel and highly familiar, a contrast effect in perception can occur. This is consistent with the selective accessibility model, which says that a perceptual contrast effect occurs when conditions orient respondents to dissimilarities rather than to similarities among context and target items. In the experiments conducted, context-induced response language effects were circumvented by employing forced-anchor scales. (c) 2009 by JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH, Inc..
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