Choice Construction Versus Preference Construction: the Instability of Preferences Learned in Context
47 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2006
Date Written: April 2007
Preference consistency implies that people have learned their willingness to trade off attributes. We argue that this is not necessarily the case. Instead, we show that when preferences are learned in context (e.g., through repeated choices made from a trinary choice set that includes an asymmetrically dominated decoy), people learn a context specific choice heuristic (e.g., always the asymmetrically dominating option), which leads to less consistent preferences across contexts. In contrast, repeated choices from sets containing only two options impel people to learn their subjective attribute weights, yielding preferences that are consistent across contexts. The difference between choice construction and preference construction is of importance to marketing managers because repeat purchase is typically interpreted as a signal of customer preference. We show that this preference might just be a learned solution to the choice problem, and that as soon as the competitive context changes (in a normatively meaningless way), so will consumers' preferences.
Keywords: Preference construction, preference learning, choice, context
JEL Classification: M31, D83, D00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation