Do Recommender Systems Manipulate Consumer Preferences? A Study of Anchoring Effects

40 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2013

See all articles by Gediminas Adomavicius

Gediminas Adomavicius

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Jesse Bockstedt

University of Arizona - Department of Management Information Systems

Shawn Curley

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis

Jingjng Zhang

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies

Date Written: June 25, 2013

Abstract

Recommender systems are becoming a salient part of many e-commerce websites. Much research has focused on advancing recommendation technologies to improve accuracy of predictions, while behavioral aspects of using recommender systems are often overlooked. In our studies, we explore how consumer preferences at the time of consumption are impacted by predictions generated by recommender systems. We conducted three controlled laboratory experiments to explore the effects of system recommendations on preferences. Studies 1 and 2 investigated user preferences for television programs across a variety of conditions, which were surveyed immediately following program viewing. Study 3 investigated the granularity of the observed effects within individual participants. Results provide strong evidence that the rating presented by a recommender system serves as an anchor for the consumer’s constructed preference. Viewers’ preference ratings are malleable and can be significantly influenced by the recommendation received. The effect is sensitive to the perceived reliability of a recommender system and, thus, not a purely numerical or priming-based effect. Finally, the effect of anchoring is continuous and linear, operating over a range of perturbations of the system. These general findings have a number of important implications (e.g., on recommender systems performance metrics and design, preference bias, potential strategic behavior, and trust), which are discussed.

Keywords: anchoring effects, behavioral decision making, behavioral economics, electronic commerce, experimental research, preferences, recommender systems

JEL Classification: C91, D89

Suggested Citation

Adomavicius, Gediminas and Bockstedt, Jesse and Curley, Shawn and Zhang, Jingjng, Do Recommender Systems Manipulate Consumer Preferences? A Study of Anchoring Effects (June 25, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2285042 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2285042

Gediminas Adomavicius

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Jesse Bockstedt (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - Department of Management Information Systems ( email )

AZ
United States

Shawn Curley

University of Minnesota - Minneapolis ( email )

110 Wulling Hall, 86 Pleasant St, S.E.
308 Harvard Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Jingjng Zhang

Indiana University - Kelley School of Business - Department of Operation & Decision Technologies ( email )

1309 E. Tenth Street
HH4143
Bloomington, IN 47401
United States

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