Essays on consumer decision-making in interactive and information rich environments
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This dissertation consists of two central parts. Part one of the dissertation examines the impact of interactive restructuring on decision processes and outcomes. Five experimental studies show that consumers examine less information and engage in more compensatory decision processes when interactive restructuring tools are available. Consumers also increase their use of restructuring tools in cognitively challenging choice environments. The availability of a sorting tool improves objective and subjective decision quality when attributes are positively correlated, or when the number of alternatives in a choice set is large, but not when attributes are negatively correlated or choice sets are small. Greater use of interactive restructuring tools has deleterious effects on decision quality when attributes are negatively correlated. Under time pressure the availability of an interactive restructuring tool improves decision quality, even when attributes are negatively correlated, since time pressure limits tool overuse. Finally, the effects of multiple interactive restructuring tools on decision making vary by the types of tools that marketers make available to consumers. Part two of the dissertation explores the effects of visual design on consumer preferences and choice. Experiment 1 demonstrates preference reversals when visual separators are between product alternatives versus between product attributes. Experiment 2 shows that when product attributes are negatively correlated, visually separating alternatives improves decision quality but visually separating attributes hurts decision quality. Visual separators do not affect decision quality when attributes are positively correlated. Experiment 3 extends experiment 2 to show that visual separators enhance decision-making efficiency and can limit the extent to which consumers adapt to contextual changes in choice environments. Finally, experiment 4 shows that, under time pressure, both visual separators between attributes as well as visual separators between alternatives improve decision quality when attributes are negatively correlated.