Context is everything: New research uncovers key to consumer preferences

Jul 17, 2008

When consumers shop for televisions or cereal, what makes them prefer one option to another? Which brand will they purchase again and tell their friends about?

New research in the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that a product's attractiveness can shift depending on the other choices that are available at the time. Authors Song-Oh Yoon (Korea University Business School) and Itamar Simonson (Stanford University) demonstrate that if consumers perceive they're choosing the best item from a set of options, they are more likely to feel good enough about choosing the product again next time.

"These findings show that the choice process and the configuration of the choice set have long-term effects on the strength, stability, and attribution of the resulting preferences and can even influence product satisfaction," write the authors.

The research found that the configuration of the choice set mattered greatly when it came to creating consumer preference. In the studies, participants were presented with products (food processors, lawn mowers, portable grills, binoculars, cars, cordless phones, etc.). The products were presented in three types of choice sets: asymmetric dominance (where one choice was clearly superior to the other two), compromise (where one choice was intermediate to the other two), or control (two options that were somewhat equivalent).

After participants made choices, they rated the products and their satisfaction with their choices. In five different studies that shifted the products and choice sets, the researchers found that the strength of preference for one option over another can be affected by the context of the choice in ways people don't realize.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Best of Last Week—Increasing antihydrogen production, converting waste heat to electricity and video game brain impact

Related Stories

Mirror, mirror on the wall: Smart mirrors boost sales

May 11, 2015

Imagine a fitting room with a "smart" mirror that suggests jeans to go with the red shirt you brought in. It snaps a video so you can compare the image side-by-side with other colorful shirts you try on. ...

Sustainability of the built environment

May 08, 2015

In times of limited resources and continued evidence of significant climate change, sustainability is increasingly regarded as a topic of global importance. Consider areas such as design, energy, and materials: ...

Dyson likes what he sees in solid-state battery company

Mar 17, 2015

Michigan-based Sakti3, a spinout of the University of Michigan, is set on commercializing a breakthrough solid-state battery technology that would deliver high performance. The company working on their early ...

Recommended for you

Top UK scientists warn against EU exit

May 22, 2015

A group of leading British scientists including Nobel-winning geneticist Paul Nurse warned leaving the European Union could threaten research funding, in a letter published in The Times newspaper on Friday.

Publisher pushback puts open access in peril

May 21, 2015

Delegates at the The Higher Education Technology Agenda (THETA) conference on the Gold Coast last week heard from futurist Bryan Alexander about four possible scenarios for the future of knowledge. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.