Abstract Specifications of many product attributes (e.g., prices, review scores, fuel efficiency, calories, computer processor speed, etc.) are numerical. When comparing alternatives, consumers often need to judge how much larger or smaller one value is than another (say x and y). How do they make such a judgment? The literature suggests that people can rely on either the absolute difference (x-y) or relative difference (x/y). Importantly, relying on the absolute versus relative difference might lead to divergent outcomes. Therefore, this research aims to identify one factor that moderates consumers’ reliance on absolute versus relative differences. Specifically, we propose that when the attribute is easy to evaluate (i.e., when consumers have clear reference information), people tend to compute and rely on absolute differences to make comparative judgments. By contrast, when the attribute evaluability is low (i.e., reference information is lacking), they tend to compute the relative difference. Results from six studies provide convergent evidence for this proposition and demonstrate its downstream effects on preference and judgments. Numerical Comparison, Absolute versus Relative Differences, Evaluability © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Journal of Consumer Research – Oxford University Press
Published: May 15, 2018
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