Translated Attributes as Choice Architecture: Aligning Objectives and Choices Through Decision Signposts

47 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2017

See all articles by Christoph Ungemach

Christoph Ungemach

Technische Universität München

Adrian Camilleri

University of Technology Sydney

Eric J. Johnson

Columbia Business School - Marketing

Richard P. Larrick

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Elke Weber

Princeton University

Date Written: February 21, 2017

Abstract

Every attribute can be expressed in multiple ways. For example, car fuel economy can be expressed as fuel efficiency (“miles per gallon”), fuel cost in dollars, or tons of greenhouse gases emitted. Each expression, or “translation”, highlights a different aspect of the same attribute. We describe a new mechanism whereby translated attributes can serve as decision “signposts” because they (1) activate otherwise dormant objectives, such as pro-environmental values and goals, and (2) direct the person towards the option that best achieves the activated objective. Across three experiments we provide evidence for the occurrence of such signpost effects as well as the underlying psychological mechanism. We demonstrate that expressing an attribute such as fuel economy in terms of multiple translations can increase preference for the option that is better aligned with objectives congruent with this attribute (e.g., the more fuel-efficient car for those with pro-environmental attitudes), even when the new information is derivable from other known attributes. We discuss how using translated attributes appropriately can help align a person’s choices with their personal objectives.

Keywords: framing, choice architecture, fuel economy label, translated attribute, decision signpost, nudge

Suggested Citation

Ungemach, Christoph and Camilleri, Adrian and Johnson, Eric J. and Larrick, Richard P. and Weber, Elke, Translated Attributes as Choice Architecture: Aligning Objectives and Choices Through Decision Signposts (February 21, 2017). Management Science, Forthcoming; Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 17-30. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2921515

Christoph Ungemach

Technische Universität München ( email )

Arcisstrasse 21
Munich, 80333
Germany

Adrian Camilleri (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney ( email )

15 Broadway, Ultimo
PO Box 123
Sydney, NSW 2007
Australia

Eric J. Johnson

Columbia Business School - Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Richard P. Larrick

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.fuqua.duke.edu/faculty/alpha/larrick.htm

Elke Weber

Princeton University ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

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