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Unraveling the Choice Format Effect: A Context-Dependent Random Utility Model


  • Jing Zhang
  • Wiktor L. Adamowicz


A few recent studies report that preferences elicited from a two-alternative choice format are different from those elicited from a three-alternative choice format, when both choice set designs contain a status quo option. We hypothesize that the choice format effect might disappear when we estimate a random utility model (RUM) that allows for context-dependent preferences. Based on the estimated context-dependent RUM, we find that the choice format effect is likely the result of two offsetting effects: a task complexity effect that increases the probability of choosing the status quo option, and a preference matching effect, which decreases the probability.

Suggested Citation

  • Jing Zhang & Wiktor L. Adamowicz, 2011. "Unraveling the Choice Format Effect: A Context-Dependent Random Utility Model," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 87(4), pages 730-743.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:87:y:2011:iv:1:p:730-743

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dmitriy Volinskiy & Wiktor L. Adamowicz & Michele Veeman & Lorie Srivastava, 2009. "Does Choice Context Affect the Results from Incentive-Compatible Experiments? The Case of Non-GM and Country-of-Origin Premia in Canola Oil," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 57(2), pages 205-221, June.
    2. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-1061.
    3. Swait, Joffre & Adamowicz, Wiktor, 2001. "Choice Environment, Market Complexity, and Consumer Behavior: A Theoretical and Empirical Approach for Incorporating Decision Complexity into Models of Consumer Choice," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 141-167, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jürgen Meyerhoff & Malte Oehlmann & Priska Weller, 2015. "The Influence of Design Dimensions on Stated Choices in an Environmental Context," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 61(3), pages 385-407, July.
    2. Oehlmann, Malte & Weller, Priska & Meyerhoff, Jürgen, 2014. "Complexity-induced Status Quo Effects in Discrete Choice Experiments for Environmental Valutation," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100616, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Wiktor L. Adamowicz & Klaus Glenk & Jürgen Meyerhoff, 2014. "Choice modelling research in environmental and resource economics," Chapters,in: Handbook of Choice Modelling, chapter 27, pages 661-674 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Meyerhoff, Jürgen & Glenk, Klaus, 2015. "Learning how to choose—effects of instructional choice sets in discrete choice experiments," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 122-142.
    5. Weng, Weizhe & Morrison, Mark & Boyle, Kevin & Boxall, Peter, 2017. "The effect of the number of alternatives in a choice experiment with an application to the Macquarie Marshes, AU," 2017 Annual Meeting, February 4-7, 2017, Mobile, Alabama 252836, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    6. Oehlmann, Malte & Meyerhoff, Jürgen & Mariel, Petr & Weller, Priska, 2017. "Uncovering context-induced status quo effects in choice experiments," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 59-73.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects


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