Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

An Integrated Model of Choice and Response Time

Allenby, Greg M.
van Zandt, Trish
Volume: 45
Number: 5
Pages: 593 - 607
Month: October
ISSN-Print: 0022-2437
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2008
Abstract: Marketing researchers routinely use response times as indicators of latent processes related to memory, attitudes, and decision making. Shorter response times are associated with readily accessible memory structures, more firmly held attitudes, and decisions that are free of conflict. Practitioners use response times to indicate data quality, with outlying response times pointing to data of questionable quality. Quick responses are sometimes interpreted as lacking a minimum amount of deliberation, and long responses raise the possibility that a respondent may be preoccupied with a different task. Research companies often collect larger samples than needed, anticipating the loss of some “bad” data flagged by response times below or above certain thresholds. This article develops an integrated model of choice and response time and applies it to conjoint data. In contrast to standard models for the analysis of conjoint data, the proposed model builds on a process interpretation of choice that independently quantifies the amount of deliberation that a respondent brings to the task. The model facilitates inference about respondents’ preferences for choice alternatives, their diligence in providing responses, and the accessibility of attitudes/the speed of thinking. The proposed model is a race model that belongs to the class of sequential sampling models that have been employed in experimental psychology to model response time. The basic idea of a race model is that a decision maker accumulates evidence over time in favor of individual alternatives within a choice set. A choice occurs when the amount of evidence for any one alternative in the choice set exceeds a threshold value. Using this model, the authors show that response times are informative about respondents’ valuations of products and their attributes. Quick response times point to easy decisions in which at least one of the alternatives is outstanding, and slow response times point to difficult decisions in which the alternatives are less or equally attractive. The link between response times and these aspects of a choice task is conditional on respondents’ diligence and allocation of cognitive capacity, which are both latent. The authors show that their measure of diligence is positively related to predictive accuracy, allowing for heterogeneous levels of capacity and tastes. Thus, the model can distinguish respondents who think quickly from those who respond quickly but without much thought. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that more diligent respondents process more attribute information and suggest the possibility of differentially targeting respondents based on diligence.