Six of one, half dozen of the other: expanding and contracting numerical dimensions produces preference reversals.
The scales used to describe the attributes of different choice options are usually open to alternative expressions, such as inches versus feet or minutes versus hours. More generally, a ratio scale can be multiplied by an arbitrary factor (e.g., 12) while preserving all of the information it conveys about different choice alternatives. We propose that expanded scales (e.g., price per year) lead decision makers to discriminate between choice options more than do contracted scales (e.g., price per month) because they exaggerate the difference between options on the expanded attribute. Two studies show that simply increasing the size of an attribute's scale systematically changes its weight in both multiattribute preferences and willingness to pay: Expanding scales for one attribute shifts preferences to alternatives favored on that attribute.
Burson, KA; Larrick, RP; Lynch, JG
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