A Zero Attraction Effect in Naturalistic Choice
25 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2019 Last revised: 16 Oct 2020
Date Written: December 3, 2018
In the attraction effect, adding a dominated third option to a choice set of two options can reverse the preference for the original two options, and even increase one of the option’s choice share. This constitutes a violation of the axioms of regularity and independence from irrelevant alternatives, which are core properties of any choice model in which the utility of each option is stable across choice sets. Consequently, in the past 20 years, the attraction effect has driven the development of a set of influential models of multiattribute choice. However, Frederick, Lee, and Baskin (2014) have recently claimed that the attraction effect is only limited to options with numerical attributes, and does not hold for choices between naturalistic options (e.g., snacks, movies) — a claim which would severely undermine its theoretical importance. Huber, Payne, and Puto (2014) criticised Frederick et al.’s experiments, laying down a set of criteria that should be met by any experiment wishing to test for the attraction effect in real-world consumer choices. This article presents the first experiment that meets these criteria. The results show a precisely zero attraction effect.
Keywords: consumer choice, attraction effect, asymmetric dominance, attribute representation, context effects
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