The Background Contrast Effect occurs when the trade-off value between attributes in a first choice influences subsequent choice. We explore the role of decision-making thoughtfulness in seeking to understand when and why this effect occurs. Experiments 1 and 2 provide evidence that the Background Contrast Effect emerges more under thoughtful than under nonthoughtful conditions. Experiment 3 reveals that thought influences perceptions of applicability of the trade-off values in the first choice to the second. Experiment 4 demonstrates that when the information from the first choice is manipulated to appear inapplicable, the Background Contrast Effect is reversed under thoughtful conditions. This research highlights the role of thought on perception of applicability as a process underlying when and why context is used to generate meaning in choice situations.
Priester, J. R., Dholakia, U. M., & Fleming, M. A. (2004). When and why the background contrast effect emerges: thought engenders meaning by influencing the perception of applicability. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(3), 491-501.