Aspects of compatibility and the construction of preference

In Rob Ranyard, Ray Crozier & Ola Svenson (eds.), Decision making: Cognitive models and explanations. Routledge. pp. 58-72 (1997)
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This chapter focuses on the psychological mechanisms behind the construction of preference, especially the actual processes used by humans when they make decisions in their everyday lives or in business situations. The chapter uses cognitive psychological techniques to break down these processes and set them in their social context. When attributes are compatible with the response scale, they are assigned greater weight because they are most easily mapped onto the response. For instance, when subjects are asked to set a price for a gamble this task is compatible with the information about the gamble payoff, which is also expressed in monetary values (e.g., dollars). Conversely, when the task requires a choice the payoff information is not easily mapped onto the response anymore and loses some of its salience. In fact, Slovic, Griffin, and Tversky (1990) could show that using non-monetary outcomes attenuates preference reversals when no compatibility between the pricing task and the outcome attribute was possible. An assumption of the compatibility effect is that response modes compatible with specific characteristics of the options (e.g., payoffs) draw attention to them. One of the main themes that has emerged from behavioral decision research during the past decades is the view that people's preferences are often constructed—not merely revealed—in the process of elicitation (see e.g. Slovic). This conception is derived in part from studies demonstrating that normatively equivalent methods of elicitation often give rise to systematically different responses. These "preference reversals" violate the principle of procedure invariance fundamental to theories of rational choice and raise difficult questions about the nature of human values. If different elicitation procedures produce different orderings of options, how can preferences be defined and in what sense do they exist? Describing and explaining such failures of invariance will require choice models of far greater complexity than the traditional models
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