Context is everything: New research uncovers key to consumer preferences

July 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: Global carbon pricing off menu at Paris climate talks

Related Stories

Global carbon pricing off menu at Paris climate talks

November 24, 2015

Climate experts say the need to agree on a global carbon price to cut pollution and aid clean technologies is a no-brainer, and yet the topic will have no place at the upcoming Paris climate talks.

Emissions set to soar as love of steak takes off in Asia

November 17, 2015

Climate change is the last thing on Maya Puspita Sari's mind as she tucks into a steak and splurges on ice cream, products that were once a luxury but are now a growing staple in the diets of millions of Indonesians.

Studying the differences in similarities

November 17, 2015

Data mining is not just about numbers: It is premised on human behaviour, and the multitude of decisions that we make every day. A researcher from Singapore Management University is trying to identify useful patterns from ...

An app to track your climate impact

November 13, 2015

Ducky is an app designed to motivate individuals and businesses to change their environmental habits, and to reveal the effects of their actions in everyday life. "Your choices make a difference," says the entrepreneur who ...

Recommended for you

Four pre-Inca tombs found in Peru's Lima

November 27, 2015

Archaeologists in Peru have found four tombs that are more than 1,000 years old in a pyramid-shaped cemetery that now sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Lima, experts said.


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.