Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Beware How You Compare: Comparison Direction Dictates Stimulus-Valence-Modulated Presentation-Order Effects in Preference Judgment

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Beware How You Compare: Comparison Direction Dictates Stimulus-Valence-Modulated Presentation-Order Effects in Preference Judgment

Article excerpt

Published online: 17 April 2013

®> Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract Englund and Hellström (Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 25:82-94, 2012a) found a tendency to prefer the left (first-read) of two attractive alternatives but the right (second-read) of two unattractive alternatives-a valence-dependent word-order effect (WOE). They used stimulus pairs spaced horizontally and preference was indi- cated by choosing one of several written statements (e.g., "apple I like more than pear"). The results were interpreted as being due to stimulus position, with the magnitude of the left stimulus having a greater impact on the comparison outcome than the magnitude of the right. Here we investi- gated the effects of the positioning of the stimuli versus the semantics of the response alternatives (i.e., comparison di- rection) on the relative impacts of the stimuli. Participants rated preferences for stimuli spaced horizontally with the response alternatives not dictating a comparison direction (Exp. 1), and stimuli spaced vertically using Englund and Hellström's (Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 25:82- 94, 2012a) response alternatives, which dictate a compari- son direction semantically (Exp. 2). The results showed that the valence-dependent WOE found by Englund and Hellström (Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 25:82- 94, 2012a) was not due to the horizontal stimulus position- ing per se, but to the induced comparison direction, with the effect probably being mediated by attention directed at the subject of the comparison. We concluded that a set compar- ison direction is required for the valence-dependent WOE to appear, and that using Hellström's sensation-weighting model to determine stimulus weights is a way to verify the comparison direction.

Keywords Preference judgment · Stimulus valence Feature matching · Comparison direction · Sensation weighting · Word-order effect

In the decision-making literature, numerous reports have dem- onstrated that the presentation order of the choice options affects the outcome systematically (e.g., Bruine de Bruin & Keren, 2003; Houston & Sherman, 1995; Wänke, Schwartz, & Noelle-Neumann, 1995). For example, presentation order has been shown to influence the results in contexts as various as opinion polls (Wänke et al., 1995), preference for political candidates (Houston & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 1998), preference for job options (Slaughter & Highhouse, 2003), evaluation of food products (Dean, 1980), and professional judges' ratings in figure-skating contests (Bruine de Bruin, 2005, 2006). Analogous effects have been found by psychophysicists for one and a half centuries (see, e.g., Guilford, 1954, and Hellström, 1985, for reviews), and the psychophysical tradi- tion to use many stimulus pairs of varying magnitudes has made it possible to discover that the size and direction of presentation-order effects vary with, among several factors, the stimuli's magnitude level. For example, Hellström (2003) found that, in length comparisons of lines of relatively long durations, subjects overestimated the left out of two short lines but the right out of two long lines. Similarly, in comparisons of musical excerpts, Koh (1967) found a tendency to prefer the first of two unpleasant excerpts but the second of two pleasant excerpts; the size of this effect varied linearly with the rated pleasantness of the stimulus pairs. Analogous results were found by Englund and Hellström (2012b) for pairs of successive jingles as well as for color patterns. These are but a few examples of what Fechner (1860) called space-order error (SOE) and time-order error (TOE). As is hinted at by the two terms, a SOE appears when stimuli are separated spa- tially, and a TOE when stimuli are separated temporally. Fechner defined these effects as being positive whenever the left (for SOEs) or the first (for TOEs) stimulus is overestimated relative to the other, and negative for the opposite case. …

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