The Continuum of Choice: Essays on How Consumer Decisions Are Made, Changed, and Perceived
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CitationBarasz, Katherine N. 2016. The Continuum of Choice: Essays on How Consumer Decisions Are Made, Changed, and Perceived. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Business School.
AbstractThis research investigates the continuum of choice—unseen, unanticipated causes and consequences of consumer decisions. Three essays investigate hidden factors that influence the choices we make, subtle ways to affect choice at the moment of execution, and the overlooked signals that our choices convey (correctly or incorrectly) about us to others. Essay one investigates the perverse tendency to hope for the worst: when faced with a difficult decision (e.g., whether or not to have surgery), people can paradoxically feel subjectively better with—and even actively prefer—objectively worse but certain news (e.g., “95% chance of a disease”) over objectively better but more uncertain news (e.g., “50% chance of a disease”). This, in turn, has the potential to meaningfully change people’s subsequent choices and preferences in unexpected ways. Essay two examines a subtle intervention to change people’s decisions about engagement levels: arbitrarily grouping discrete tasks or items together as part of an apparent “set” motivates people to reach perceived completion points—or finish a pseudo-set—even in the absence of extrinsic incentives. Essay three explores the judgments people make after observing others’ choices; specifically, upon learning of someone’s choice of one option, people erroneously believe that person must dislike dissimilar options, leading to a pervasive and systematic prediction error.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:32744400
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