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

See all articles by Jennifer Gregan-Paxton

Jennifer Gregan-Paxton

University of Delaware - Management

Steve Hoeffler

Vanderbilt University - Marketing

Min Zhao

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Date Written: August 29, 2005

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Gregan-Paxton, Jennifer and Hoeffler, Steve and Zhao, Min, When Categorization is Ambiguous: Factors that Facilitate the Use of a Multiple Category Inference Strategy (August 29, 2005). Journal of Consumer Psychology. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1668193

Jennifer Gregan-Paxton

University of Delaware - Management ( email )

United States

Steve Hoeffler (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Min Zhao

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

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