Will I like a “medium” pillow? Another look at constructed and inherent preferences

Will I like a “medium” pillow? Another look at constructed and inherent preferences

Journal of Consumer Psychology. July
2008, Vol. 18, Issue 3, Pages 155–169

There is a growing consensus that preferences are inherently constructive and largely determined by the task characteristics, the choice context, and the description of options. Although the fact that construction influences often play an important role is not in dispute, I argue that much of the evidence for preference construction reflects people’s difficulty in evaluating absolute attribute values and tradeoffs and their tendency to gravitate to available relative evaluations. Furthermore, although some key demonstrations of constructive preferences involved rather unusual tasks and might have “benefited” from the effects they were demonstrating, the findings have led to rather sweeping, unqualified conclusions. The notion of more stable inherent preference components that are not determined by context is then introduced, suggesting that it is often meaningful and useful to assume that people are non/receptive to certain aspects and object configurations, including those that may not yet exist. Inherent preferences are more influential when reference points and forces of construction are less salient, most notably, when objects are experienced. The final section explores some of the implications of constructed and inherent preferences with respect to decision and marketing research.