Papers: Choice-based preference modeling and design

Products' Shared Visual Features Do Not Cancel in Consumer Decisions

[+] Author and Article Information
Ping Du

Mechanical Engineering,
Iowa State University,
Ames, IA 50011
e-mail: pdu@iastate.edu

Erin F. MacDonald

Assistant Professor
Mechanical Engineering,
Stanford University,
Stanford, CA 94305
e-mail: erinmacd@stanford.edu

Contributed by the Design Automation Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received September 20, 2014; final manuscript received February 12, 2015; published online May 19, 2015. Assoc. Editor: Carolyn Seepersad.

J. Mech. Des 137(7), 071409 (Jul 01, 2015) (11 pages) Paper No: MD-14-1625; doi: 10.1115/1.4030162 History: Received September 20, 2014; Revised February 12, 2015; Online May 19, 2015

Consumers' product purchase decisions typically involve comparing competing products' visual features and functional attributes. Companies strive for “product differentiation” (Liu et al., 2013, “Product Family Design Through Ontology-Based Faceted Component Analysis, Selection, and Optimization,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 135(8), p. 081007; Thevenot and Simpson, 2009, “A Product Dissection-Based Methodology to Benchmark Product Family Design Alternatives,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 131(4), p. 041002; Kota et al., 2000, “A Metric for Evaluating Design Commonality in Product Families,” ASME J. Mech. Des., 122(4), pp. 403–410; Orfi et al. 2011, “Harnessing Product Complexity: Step 1—Establishing Product Complexity Dimensions and Indicators,” Eng. Econ., 56(1), pp. 59–79; and Shooter et al. 2005, “Toward a Multi-Agent Information Management Infrastructure for Product Family Planning and Mass Customisation,” Int. J. Mass Customisation, 1(1), pp. 134–155), which makes consumers' product comparisons fruitful but also sometimes challenging. Psychologists who study decision-making have created models of choice such as the cancellation-and-focus (C&F) model. C&F explains and predicts how people decide between choice alternatives with both shared and unique attributes: The shared attributes are “canceled” (ignored) while the unique ones have greater weight in decisions. However, this behavior has only been tested with text descriptions of choice alternatives. To be useful to designers, C&F must be tested with product visuals. This study tests C&F under six conditions defined by: The representation mode (text-only, image-only, and image-with-text) and presentation (sequentially or side-by-side) of choice alternatives. For the products tested, C&F holds for only limited situations. Survey and eye-tracking data suggest different cognitive responses to shared text attributes versus shared image features: In text-only, an attribute's repetition cancels its importance in decisions, while in images, repetition of a feature reinforces its importance. Generally, product differences prove to attract more attention than commonalities, demonstrating product differentiation's importance in forming consumer preferences.

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Fig. 1

The original testing scenario for the C&F model (a) and an additional scenario tested here (b) that involves product designs shown as images, which had both shared and unique feature designs

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Fig. 2

The C&F model predicted preferences for text described alternatives. We tested if C&F held for product designs shown as images, as opposed to designer intuition, and also combinations of text and images.

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Fig. 4

Three representation modes of the car stimuli: image-only, text-only, and image-with-text

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Fig. 5

Sample stimuli in the ITSBS condition

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Fig. 6

Design variants of features explicitly selected to be “good” and “bad” were verified with a t-test of desirability ratings

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Fig. 3

Illustration of fixations. A circle represents a fixation; a larger circle indicates a longer fixation time; and more circles indicate a higher fixation count.

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Fig. 7

Sample AOIs generated for the product attributes/features



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