Prior research has discovered that the most prominent attribute has greater influence on the formation of preference in choice versus matching tasks. We extend the research on this phenomenon, which is known as the prominence effect (Tversky, Sattath, & Slovic, 1988), by examining its generalizability and by providing insight into the psychological processes involved. The effects of task characteristics (i.e., the number of attributes and alternatives) and the effects of subject characteristics (i.e., processing goal) on the prominence effect were examined. In the first experiment we found that the prominence effect reverses when the number of attributes increases from two to four. That is, the prominent attribute is given greater weight in matching tasks rather than in choice tasks. A second experiment demonstrated that processing goal does influence the robustness of the prominence effect. We found that the influence of the prominent attribute on the formation of preference did not differ in choice and matching tasks when subjects′ processing goal was to form an overall impression of each of the alternatives. A third experiment, which explored the interaction between the response mode and processing goal in the four attribute case replicated this finding. Findings from Experiment 1 were also extended so that the reverse prominence effect was found when subjects processing goal was to memorize the information. Implications of these results are discussed.
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processesvol.
62, (April 01, 1995):