PhD Defence: Preference Construction under Prominence

In his dissertation “Preference Construction under Prominence” Ioannis Evangelidis notes that people generally neglect the importance they place on product attributes when making purchases, which may lead to sub-optimal purchases. Ioannis argues that this is a result of influences from the decision environment, specifically in relation to the options we are presented and the manner in which attributes are described. Moreover, Ioannis prescribes policy measures which can be taken to nudge desired or optimal behaviour.

Ioannis defended his dissertation in the Senate Hall at Erasmus University Rotterdam on Friday, 12 June 2015. His supervisor was Professor Stijn van Osselaer and his co-supervisors were Dr. Jonathan Levav and Dr. Bram Van den Bergh. Other members of the Doctoral Committee included Professor Stefano Puntoni (ERIM), Professor Gal Zauberman (University of Pennsylvania), and Professor Benedict Dellaert (ERIM). 

About Ioannis Evangelidis

Ioannis Evangelidis was born in Athens, Greece on October 8th, 1984. He received his Bachelor's degree in Marketing and Communication from Athens University of Economics and Business. He received his Master’s degree (cum laude) in Business Administration from Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University). In 2010, he started his Ph.D. research in Marketing at the Erasmus Research Institute of Management. His main research interests concern attribute weighting processes, decision-making, goals, time, and charitable giving. His work has been published in prestigious marketing (Journal of Marketing Research) and psychology journals (Psychological Science), and has received worldwide media coverage (e.g., Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Die Welt, Huffington Post, Stanford Social Innovation Review and the Nation's Health). Ioannis has presented his research at several international conferences (e.g., ACR, SCP, SJDM, and BDRM) and universities (NYU, Columbia, University of California Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Florida, INSEAD, and Bocconi University). He was a visiting research scholar at the Stanford Graduate School of Business during 2012-2014, and he will be working as an Assistant Professor in Marketing at Bocconi University from September 2015.

Thesis Abstract

Prior academic research and common sense assume that differences in attribute importance weights should determine choice. All else equal, consumers are presumed to prefer products that in their view are superior along the products’ most important—or so-called “prominent”—dimensions. This dissertation examines to what extent people use prominence (i.e., relative attribute importance) when constructing their preference and shows that the decision process exerts an influence on choice that is not captured by the classic theories.

First, we argue that the use of prominence in choice depends on the perceived reliability of the prominent attribute. When values associated with the prominent attribute are not perceived to be as reliable as values associated with the non-prominent attribute, decision-makers are more likely to make choices that are inconsistent with their attribute preferences. Second, we argue that the use of prominence in choice depends on the presence of relational properties between the alternatives under consideration. We found that decision-makers are less likely to employ prominence when expressing their preference about alternatives from a choice set in which dominance or compromise relationships are present. This dissertation holds implications for product line management and choice architecture.

Photos: Chris Gorzeman / Capital Images