Optimal Conflict in Preference Assessment

Delquié, Philippe
January 2003
Management Science;Jan2003, Vol. 49 Issue 1, p102
Academic Journal
Conflict arises in decision making when the choice alternatives present strong advantages and disadvantages over one another, that is, when the trade-offs involved are large. Conflict affects human response to choice, in particular, it increases decision difficulty and response unreliability. On the other hand, larger trade-offs, i.e., higher conflict, reveal more information about an individual's preferences and mitigate the influence of measurement unreliability on preference model estimation. This suggests, somewhat counterintuitively, that there may exist some optimal level of conflict for efficient measurement of preferences. How to determine this level? This issue is examined from behavioral and analytical angles. We outline a general analysis of the interaction between trade-off size and modeling accuracy, and demonstrate its application on a simple example. The kind of analysis developed here can be conveniently implemented in a computer spreadsheet, and would be especially valuable when large amounts of preference data are to be collected, as in consumer preference studies, experimental research, and contingent valuation surveys.


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