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Examining the Consumer Choice Process – A Theoretical Approach

In process.

Anthony Davies, Rajdeep Grewal, and Thomas Cline



In their seminal work on the attraction and substitution effects, Huber and Puto (1983) conclude by asking if the attraction and substitution effects "could be specified as part of a more general framework." Since that time, there has been much work done on context effects (e.g., Glazer et al. 1991, Ratenshwar et al.1987, Sen 1998, Simonson 1989, Simonson and Tversky 1992) and brand positioning (Lehmann and Pan 1994, Sujan and Bettman 1989) which has elucidated, among other things, the compromise effect, the attraction effect, extremeness aversion, and the lone alternative effect. A separate but related stream of research has investigated the role of consideration sets in the multi-stage decision processes (e.g., Hauser and Wernerfelt 1990, Shocker et al. 1991). Simonson (1989) states: "Given that the attraction effect has already been demonstrated, any hypothesis regarding its causes would be a post hoc explanation. A more powerful test of the advantages of (an approach) to explain choice is the ability of that approach to predict choice phenomena that are difficult to explain otherwise." In this paper, we answer Huber and Puto’s call for a general, theoretical framework and follow Simonson’s call for predictive validation of the model. We posit that varied context effects are manifestations of a single underlying process. Further, we show that a multi-stage choice process is integral to explaining context-dependent choice in the presence of uncertainty. Accordingly, we develop a general framework that uses a multi-stage model to explain the interrelations among context effects, and we provide empirical support for the framework.


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