Not just for consumers: Data and theory show that context effects are fundamental to decision-making


Context effects – preference changes depending on the availability of other options – have attracted a great deal of attention among consumer researchers studying high-level decision tasks. Our experiments show that all three context effects from the preferential choice literature – similarity, attraction, and compromise effects – also arise in inference tasks and simple perceptual decision-making tasks. These experiments provide evidence that the effects are not confined to high-level decision tasks where the options have hedonic values such as consumer products. A new model of multi-alternative, multi-attribute choice is also developed. This model, named the Multi-attribute Linear Ballistic Accumulator (MLBA) model, extends the Linear Ballistic Accumulator model (Brown & Heathcote, 2008) and postulates that context effects arise from a combination of cognitive components including attention, a contrast mechanism, and sensitivity to indifference/dominance. The MLBA model has an analytical solution making it computationally easier to fit to experimental data than previously proposed stochastic models.

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