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.
Products' Shared Visual Features Do Not Cancel in Consumer Decisions
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.
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Du, P., and MacDonald, E. F. (July 1, 2015). "Products' Shared Visual Features Do Not Cancel in Consumer Decisions." ASME. J. Mech. Des. July 2015; 137(7): 071409. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4030162
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