As the Crow Flies: Bias in Consumers' Map-Based Distance Judgments
15 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 19, 2015
Consumers make distance judgments when they decide which store to visit or which route to take. However, these judgments may be prone to various spatial perception biases. While there is a rich literature on spatial perceptions in urban planning and environmental and cognitive psychology, there is little in the field of consumer behavior. In this article we introduce the topic of spatial perceptions as an area of research in marketing. We extend the literature on spatial perceptions by proposing that consumers use the direct distance between the endpoints of a path, or the distance "as the crow flies," as a source of information while making distance judgments -- the shorter the direct distance, the shorter the distance estimate. We study two spatial features that affect direct distance-path angularity (i.e., the size of the angle between path segments) and path direction (i.e., whether the path retraces back or not). We further propose and demonstrate that the direct-distance bias is due to the perceptual salience of direct distance and is used by consumers in an automatic manner. Theoretical implications for the manner in which consumers process spatial information and the use of cognitive heuristics while making spatial judgments are discussed.
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