How Should I Think About It?: Perceived Suitability and the Resolution of Simultaneous Conflicting Preferences

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Consumers often face conflict between what "makes sense" and what "feels right" - between logical analysis and intuition. This dissertation focuses on the means by which such conflict is resolved. Extending dual-process models of judgment, we suggest that consumers often select a processing output based on their assessment regarding the appropriateness of experiential (system-1) and analytical (system-2) responses. Specifically, we propose distinct mechanisms that affect the weighting of experiential versus analytical outputs by influencing the perceived suitability of each processing mode, and we test these mechanisms in a series of experimental studies. In order to demonstrate the broad applicability of our framework, these studies investigate numerous domains in which the 'head' and 'gut' produce opposing responses, employ diverse manipulations of perceived suitability, and utilize multiple judgment and evaluation measures.The dissertation is organized in three chapters. Chapter One provides an overview of dual-systems theories and introduces the notion of simultaneous conflicting preferences. In addition, the chapter describes our conceptualization of perceived suitability as a metacognitive construct and lays out a model by which this construct influences the resolution of conflicting preferences. Chapter Two presents six empirical studies spanning a number of paradigms relevant to consumer behavior and social cognition. As an initial demonstration, Studies 1-2 utilized a semantic priming task to manipulate representations of experiential and analytical processing, and then tested the effects of this manipulation in a game of chance pitting a logically superior option against one that was perceptually appealing. Studies 3-6 expanded our model to situations involving conflict between implicit and explicit brand attitudes. Three of these studies (3, 5, and 6) tested the proposition that prior-formed, 'implicit' attitudes will affect even overt preferences to the extent that experiential processing is deemed suitable to the evaluation task. The other (Study 4) identified various decision characteristics that may affect the perceived suitability of each processing mode in real-world decisions. Chapter Three concludes the dissertation by reviewing the evidence for our conceptual model and discussing both theoretical and practical contributions of the question "How should I think about it?" in situations pitting instincts against reason.





Bond, Samuel (2007). How Should I Think About It?: Perceived Suitability and the Resolution of Simultaneous Conflicting Preferences. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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