FV-94 | Visual and Numeric Attraction Effects with Large Choice Sets

Prof. Dr. Miguel Brendl & Dr. Ozgun Atasoy



Research Topic
We plan to continue our research program on the attraction effect, which describes a decisionmaking
phenomenon: Offering an inferior and rarely chosen third option to customers who decide
between two options has a paradoxical effect: It increases the choice share of the option most
similar to it. This effect is considered one of the most important findings in academic marketing,
but is still poorly understood. It is of theoretical interest because it violates reasonable assumptions
about how people should make choices. It also is of practical interest because it offers the potential
to alter customers’ choices by introducing extra alternatives to a product portfolio.

Statement of the Problem
Most attraction effect research has two characteristics: It investigates choices among three options
and presents these options by means of numeric attributes to respondents in behavioral experiments
(e.g., 500ml olive oil priced at CHF 20). This setup leaves some important questions unanswered.
What happens to the attraction effect when customers are offered more than three options and
when they can visually inspect the options rather than judge them based only on numerical
specifications? These are important questions because visual inspection of a large set of options
is the most common real-world choice context (e.g., in retail stores, during online shopping). It
is unclear whether the experiments that have respondents choose among three numeric choice
options would generalize to this broader context. In fact, the literature has not even established
that attraction effects can occur when choice options are visual rather than numeric.

Our objective is to compare visual and numeric attraction effects when choice sets are larger than
three options.

Importance, Usefulness, and Novelty of the Project
We expect that larger choice sets reduce the likelihood of observing the attraction effect. The
attraction effect requires that customers identify and compare similar options. This may be difficult
when there are many options on offer. However, customers are likely able to make comparisons
more quickly and easily when the options are images instead of numbers. Therefore, we expect that
the attraction effect is more likely to break down with enlarged choice sets when the options are
represented numerically than visually.