Advertisement manipulation studied

U.S. consumer scientists have demonstrated how advertisements can be manipulated to increase the likelihood a certain product is selected by shoppers.

Northwestern University researchers said their finding runs contrary to economic models, which assume choices are based on stable preferences and shouldn't be influenced by the inclusion of inferior options.

The researchers -- Ryan Hamilton, Jiewen Hong, and Alexander Chernev -- demonstrated how grouping options with similar characteristics can emphasize dissimilar options and help them stand out. For example, consider a comparison of two sofas, A and B. Sofa A has softer cushions; Sofa B is more durable. In a head-to-head comparison, sofa A is preferred by fewer than half of the survey participants -- 42.3 percent.

However, if sofas A and B are grouped with three other sofas, all of which have a low rating for cushion softness, then preference for sofa A jumps to 77.4 percent.

The study appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

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