WEAI/AERE 2009 - Individual Paper Abstract
Title: Subjective Choice Difficulty as a Context Effect in Stated Preference Surveys
Author(s): Eric DUQUETTE, Trudy Ann Cameron, University of Oregon, and J.R. DeShazo, UCLA (photo: Three Sisters Wilderness Area OR, Eric Duquette)
Abstract: The existing literature on context effects in random utility choice models focuses solely on several "objective complexity" choice-set features, which are independent of individuals' preferences and potential idiosyncratic characteristics. In our stated preference survey, we obtain a broad measure of context effects by allowing respondents to rate their subjective difficulty of the choice-task. Our estimation of these effects entails simultaneous equations in which we model subjective difficulty as a function of choiceset and individual-specific characteristics and also allow the error dispersion in a heteroscedastic conditional logit model to vary with subjective difficulty. This latter model provides information that is necessary to formulate certain choice-set characteristics in utility-space. Our analysis reveals that the existing complexity measures do not fully explain subjective difficulty and that difficulty may result from the interplay among objective complexity (in attribute space), preferences (a utility-space feature), and cognitive resource constraints. Overall, we find that fitted difficulty could be a useful univariate summary of context effects to future studies.