Material distortion of economic behavior and everyday decision making

Journal of Consumer Policy 36:389-402 (2013)
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Misleading information and unfair commercial practices have to be viewed against the background of what consumers otherwise do, i.e., what their purchase decisions look like when no misleading information or no unfair commercial practices are in place. This article provides some of this background by studying how consumers sample information when making an in-store purchase decision. This was done by an eye-tracking study which reveals to what extent consumers succeed in purchasing the products that best meet their purchase intentions when only a representative amount of misleading information is present. The study shows that decisions were suboptimal in relation to what the consumers claimed they wanted to purchase. Only in one product category did consumers in this study actually look at products that were slightly better than average, and as a result, they mainly selected products that were just as often poor as good. If the proportion of bad purchase decisions based on misleading information is small enough, perhaps it might be better to direct the authors’ attention to other ways of improving the decision environments that consumers encounter. In addition, the eye-tracking study provides some insight into how consumers sample information when making an in-store purchase decision. The present data show that consumers invested on average of less than 1 s to look at products.



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Author Profiles

Annika Wallin
Lund University
Peter Hansen
University of Aarhus

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