Reasons for the Referent: Reducing Direction of Comparison Effects
Sara D. Hodges


Two studies examined the effects of asking college-aged participants to analyze why they felt the way they did about two options (student government candidates and college courses) that either shared positive features but had unique negative features, or that shared negative features but had unique positive features. Past feature matching studies have revealed a direction of comparison effect, such that the valence of the unique (unmatched) features of the second option disproportionately influenced people's preferences. Asking participants in the present studies to list reasons about the options before rating them reduced direction-of-comparison effects. Content analysis of the reasons indicates that analyzing reasons may have caused participants to make more global evaluations of the options and to consider the unique features of both options, rather than disproportionately focusing on the unique features of just the second option. The studies suggest a possible context in which analyzing reasons may improve judgments.