Using Eye-Tracking to Understand Decision-Making in Conjoint Experiments

43 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2019

See all articles by Libby Jenke

Libby Jenke

University of Houston

Kirk Bansak

University of California, San Diego

Jens Hainmueller

Stanford University - Department of Political Science; Stanford Graduate School of Business; Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

Dominik Hangartner

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Stanford Immigration Policy Lab; Public Policy Group

Date Written: November 12, 2019

Abstract

Conjoint experiments enjoy increasing popularity in political and social science, but there is a paucity of research on respondents' underlying decision-making processes. We leverage eye-tracking methodology and a conjoint experiment, administered to a subject pool consisting of university students and local community members, to examine how respondents process information when completing conjoint surveys. Our study has two main findings. First, we find a positive correlation between attribute importance measures inferred from the stated choice data and attribute importance measures based on eye movement. This validation test supports the interpretation of common conjoint metrics, such as Average Marginal Component Effects and marginal R^2 values, as valid measures of attribute importance. Second, when we experimentally increase the number of attributes and profiles in the conjoint table, respondents on average view a larger absolute number of cells but a smaller fraction of the total cells displayed, and the patterns in which they search between cells change conditionally. At the same time, however, their stated choices remain remarkably stable. This overall pattern speaks to the robustness of conjoint experiments and is consistent with a bounded rationality mechanism. Respondents can adapt to complexity by selectively incorporating relevant new information to focus on the important attributes, while ignoring less relevant information to reduce the cognitive processing costs. Together, our results have implications for both the design and interpretation of conjoint experiments.

Keywords: conjoint, survey methods, factorial design, eye tracking

Suggested Citation

Jenke, Libby and Bansak, Kirk and Hainmueller, Jens and Hangartner, Dominik, Using Eye-Tracking to Understand Decision-Making in Conjoint Experiments (November 12, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3485375 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3485375

Libby Jenke

University of Houston ( email )

3551 Cullen Blvd Room 447
Houston, TX 77005
United States
713-743-1259 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.libbyjenke.com

Kirk Bansak

University of California, San Diego ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

Jens Hainmueller (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.stanford.edu/~jhain/

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Dominik Hangartner

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Departments of Government and Methodology
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Public Policy Group ( email )

Rämistrasse 101
ZUE F7
Zürich, 8092
Switzerland

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