When Categorization is Ambiguous: Factors that Facilitate the Use of a Multiple Category Inference Strategy
Journal of Consumer Psychology
14 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2010
Date Written: August 29, 2005
Prior research has established that categorization plays a central role in new product learning. Very little is known, however, about category-based learning under conditions of categorization ambiguity. Of particular interest is whether and under what circumstances consumers might employ a multiple- (vs. single-) category strategy to generate inferences about ambiguous products. In this research, we identified 2 factors - category familiarity and the nature of the category cue - that are responsible for determining whether inferences are based on a single category or multiple, competing categories. The results of 3 studies suggest that when an ambiguous product is described in terms of conflicting conceptual and perceptual category cues, a single category inference strategy is employed when the perceptually cued category is more familiar than the conceptually cued category. In particular, inferences are based largely on the perceptually cued category under these circumstances. However, when the perceptually cued category is less than or equal to the conceptually cued category in familiarity, a multiple category inference strategy is employed and inferences are based on both the perceptually and conceptually cued categories.
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