B.E. For Dogs: Relativity Pt. 2

B.E. for Dogs is a bi-weekly comic series that will examine concepts in behavioral economics from the perspective of our canine companions. Look out for new comics every other week!

The series is created by Matt TrowerCatherine Berman, and Jamie Foehl.

Relativity Pt.2:  This dog knows how to use “relativity” to get a human’s attention! Here’s the basic idea: people and pups change their preferences based on what alternatives are around them (similar to when this pup was eating a bite-sized hotdog). 


Christopher K. Hsee and colleagues showed this effect in an experiment on preference reversals in 1999. They asked participants to evaluate college applicants based on a fictitious score called “Academic Potential Exam” or “APE.” Since participants didn’t know anything about “APE,” they rated everyone similarly, without considering APE score. But when experimenters gave participants more context to make comparisons (such as the average score or the range of an APE score), participants changed their ratings of candidates significantly. So, we humans change evaluations depending on what else is around, especially when certain attributes are new to us or are difficult to evaluate (…such as the likeability of a pooch!).


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