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Consumer choice between hedonic and utilitarian goods

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This article examines how consumer choice between hedonic and utilitarian goods is influenced by the nature of the decision task. Building on research on elaboration, we propose that the relative salience of hedonic dimensions is greater when consumers decide which of several items to give up (foreiture chocies) than when they decide which item to acquire (acquisition choices). The resulting hypothesis that a hedonic item is relatively more preffered over the same utilitarian item in foreiture choices than acquisition choices was supported in two choice experiments. In a subsequent experiment, these findings were extended to hypothetical choices where the acquisition and foreiture conditions were created by manipulating initial attribute-level reference states instead of ownership. Finally, consistent with our experimental findings, a field survey showed that owners of relatively hedonic cars value their vehicles higher relative to market prices than owners of relatively utilitarian cars. We discuss thoretical implications of these reference-dependent preference asymmetries and explore consequences for marketing managers and other decision makers.

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