Choice Construction Versus Preference Construction: the Instability of Preferences Learned in Context

47 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2006  

On Amir

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

Jonathan Levav

Columbia Business School - Marketing

Date Written: April 2007

Abstract

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

Amir, On and Levav, Jonathan, Choice Construction Versus Preference Construction: the Instability of Preferences Learned in Context (April 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=928984 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.928984

On Amir (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States
858-534-2023 (Phone)
858-534-0745 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://management.ucsd.edu/faculty/directory/amir/

Jonathan Levav

Columbia Business School - Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
6,718
Rank
643
Abstract Views
12,632