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Essays in Consumer Behavior and Preference Elicitation


Our life is filled with choices which we describe as preferences. Preferences depend on the sensitivity of specific decisions to contextual and situational states that surround them as well as the support that individuals have in making them. As a result, science offers no simple summary of individuals’ competence as decision makers, but a suite of theories and methods suited to capturing these sensitivities.

This dissertation contributes to the existing theory by exploring new grounds in consumer decision making that broaden our knowledge of decision science and making more sense of some of the otherwise unpredicted observed behaviors.

Chapter 1 explores conditions under which some individual’s preference can be implicitly elicited. A series of five experiments demonstrate that people intuitively relate preferred choices to prominently labeled cues (such as Heads as opposed to Tails in a coin toss) and vice versa. Some findings suggest that preference-prominence congruence may be rooted in a deeper link between prominence and fluency.

Chapter 2 investigates well-known measures of individual preference: stated and revealed preferences. A series of four experiments involving consequential decisions demonstrate that the mere act of stating one’s preference may influence subsequent behavior and the preferences it reveals. The results also suggest that consistency with previous judgments, but not greed, plays a central role in biasing observed preferences. Individuals who stated their desire compensation for a task they just performed, committed to a much higher compensation than those who haven’t done so.

Chapter 3 investigates the conditions under which information about a large number of current adopters affects product attractiveness. The main results suggest a ‘Goldilocks’ requirement of product uncertainty in which large stock information that is coupled with too much or too little uncertainty can have no or even detrimental effect on sales. Particularly, while current adoption information may be uninformative for consumers who are already well informed (e.g., experts), too much product uncertainty together with a statements about a large number of current adopters may undermine seller credibility and decrease adoption likelihood.

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