Between a Rock and a Hard Place:The Failure of the Attraction Effect Among Unattractive Options

Journal of Consumer Psychology, Forthcoming

40 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2011 Last revised: 20 Nov 2012

See all articles by Selin A. Malkoc

Selin A. Malkoc

Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University

William Hedgcock

The University of Iowa

Steve Hoeffler

Vanderbilt University - Marketing

Abstract

Many important decisions that consumers face involve choosing between options that are unattractive or undesirable—the proverbial “lesser of two evils.” Consumers, who face budget or geographical constraints, for example, end up with mostly undesirable consideration sets; yet a choice is necessary. We examine the role of option set desirability in the context of the well-established attraction effect. In five studies, we show that the attraction effect occurs in desirable domains but is eliminated when all the options are undesirable (Experiments 1-4). We further find that this asymmetric effect is consistent with a shift in decision makers’ processing styles. Decision makers’ show more vigilant processing when making choices among undesirable (vs. desirable) domains (Experiments 3A and 3B), which results in an attenuated attraction effect (Experiment 4). Our results indicate that the attraction effect might not be as robust as generally thought and establishes (un)desirability as an important boundary condition.

Keywords: context effects, attraction effect, decision making, (un)desirability

Suggested Citation

Malkoc, Selin A. and Hedgcock, William and Hoeffler, Steve, Between a Rock and a Hard Place:The Failure of the Attraction Effect Among Unattractive Options. Journal of Consumer Psychology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1905007

Selin A. Malkoc (Contact Author)

Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University ( email )

2100 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210-1144
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://fisher.osu.edu/people/malkocgoodman.1

William Hedgcock

The University of Iowa ( email )

Steve Hoeffler

Vanderbilt University - Marketing ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

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