Advertisement

Animal Cognition

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 127–136 | Cite as

The impact of phantom decoys on choices in cats

  • Daniele ScarpiEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Context-dependent choice is an important aspect of decision making. The paper examines context-dependent choice in cats (Felis catus), with particular reference to the effect of local context, on the basis of hypotheses developed in the field of human decision making. Cats were initially confronted with two different feeding options. This binary choice set was later manipulated incorporating a decoy that was better than the available options but ultimately unavailable (a phantom). By means of a within-subjects manipulation of phantom location in the attribute space, the author compared the effects of close and distant phantoms on the final choices. The main finding is that close phantom decoys affected choice behavior of cats by altering the overall share of the available options, leading some animals to reject even some of the available feeding options, and by causing the animals to favor the available option that was more similar to the phantom decoy. No significant effects emerged for phantoms that were far from the alternatives in the attribute space. The strengths of this paper lie in its novel approach and high originality. No other study has used dominating decoys with animals or decoys that are unattainable. This paper provides strong links to the human decision making literature, the presentation of the predictions of a range of different choice models, and the novelty of the application to animals. The use of a phantom decoy is particularly interesting because the phantom cannot actually be chosen, and thus the binary and trinary choice sets both have the very same choices available. Overall, the effect of phantoms is real, interesting and new.

Keywords

Decision Choice Decoy Phantom Felis catus 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to Professor Giorgio Vallortigara of the University of Trento (Italy) for the care with which he assisted me, for the conversations that clarified my thinking on the method and other matters, as well as for his endorsement and professional collaboration, that meant a great deal to me. I thank the three reviewers of the original manuscript for their comments that helped me to revise and improve the paper.

Ethical standards

The experiments comply with the ethical standards of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB), with the current Italian laws for the treatment of animals, and with the principles by the ethical committee of the Italian Association of Psychology, animal studies (AIP).

References

  1. Aloimonos Y (1993) Active perception. L. Erlbaum Ass, HillsdaleGoogle Scholar
  2. Bateson M (2002) Recent advances in our understanding of risk-sensitive foraging preferences. Proc Nutr Soc 61:509–516CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bateson M, Kacelnik A (1998) Risk-sensitive foraging: decision making in variable environments. In: Dukas R (ed) Cognitive ecology. Chicago University Press, Chicago, pp 297–341Google Scholar
  4. Bateson M, Healy SD, Hurly TA (2002) Irrational choices in hummingbird foraging behavior. Anim Behav 63:587–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bateson M, Healy SD, Hurly TA (2003) Context dependent foraging decisions in rufous hummingbirds. Proc R Soc Lond 270:1271–1276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bland M (2000) An introduction to medical statistics, 3rd edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Brehm JW (1993) A theory of psychological reactance. Academic Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  8. Cecchi F, Ciampolini R, Mazzanti E, Russo C, Ciani E, Tancredi M, Macchioni F, Preziuso G, Cianci D (2005) Total score as a genetic index of meat quality traits in chianina beef cattle. Annu Vet Med LVIII:143–155Google Scholar
  9. Chernev A (2004) Extremeness aversion and attribute balance effects in choice. J Consum Res 31:249–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Choplin JM, Hummel JE (2005) Comparison-induced decoy effects. Mem Cogn 33:332–343Google Scholar
  11. Churchland PS, Ramachandran VS, Sejnowski TJ (1994) A critique of pure vision. In: Koch C, Davis JHL (eds) Large scale neuronal theories of the brain. MIT, Cambridge, pp 23–60Google Scholar
  12. Dhar R, Glazer R (1996) Similarity in context: cognitive representation and violation of preference and perceptual invariance in consumer choice. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 67:280–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dhar R, Menon A, Maach B (2004) Toward extending the compromise effect to complex buying contexts. J Mark Res 41:258–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Doyle JR, O’Connor DJ, Reynolds GM, Bottomley PA (1999) The robustness of the asymmetrically dominated effect: buying frames, phantom alternatives, and in-store purchases. Psychol Mark 16:225–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Farquhar PH, Pratkanis AR (1992) A brief history of research on phantom alternatives: evidence for seven empirical generalizations about phantoms. Basic Appl Soc Psychol 13:103–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forster M, Gray E (2000) Impact of independent judges in comparability studies conducted by awarding bodies. British educational research association annual conference, Cardiff UniversityGoogle Scholar
  17. Giraldeau L-A (1997) The ecology of information use. In: Krebs JR, Davies NB (eds) Behavioural ecology. Blackwell, London, pp 42–68Google Scholar
  18. Gregory R, Lichtenstein S, Slovic P (1993) Valuing environmental resources: a constructive approach. J Risk Uncertain 7:177–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huber J, Payne JW, Puto C (1982) Adding asymmetrically dominated alternatives: violation of regularity and similarity hypothesis. J Consum Res 9:90–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hurly TA, Oseen MD (1999) Context-dependent, risk-sensitive foraging preferences in wild rufous hummingbirds. Anim Behav 58:59–66CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Johnson EJ, Steffel M, Goldstein DG (2005) Making better decisions: from measuring to constructing preferences. Health Psychol 24:S17–S22CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Kacelnik A (1984) Central place foraging in starlings (Strurnus vulgaris) I patch residence time. J Anim Ecol 53:283–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krebs JR, Davies NB (1997) Behavioural ecology: an evolutionary approach, 4th edn. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Krebs JR, Kacelnik A (1991) Decision making. In: Behavioural ecology: an evolutionary approach, 3rd edn. Oxford, Blackwell, pp 105–136Google Scholar
  25. Myers DG (2008) Social psychology. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Novemsky N, Dhar R, Schwarz N, Simonson I (2007) The effect of preference fluency on consumer decision making. J Mark Res 44:347–356Google Scholar
  27. Pettibone JC, Wedell DH (2000) Examining models of non-dominated decoy effects across judgment and choice. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 81:300–328CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Pettibone JC, Wedell DH (2007) Testing alternative explanations of phantom decoy effects. J Behav Decis Mak 20:323–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Potter RE, Beach LR (1994) Imperfect information in pre-choice screening of options. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 59:313–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Roe RM, Busemeyer JR, Townsend JT (2001) Multi-alternative decision field theory: a dynamic connectionist model of decision-making. Psychol Rev 108:370–392CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Scarpi D (2008) The impact of decoys and background information on consumers preferences and decision making. Int J Retail Distrib Consum Res 1:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shafir S (1994) Intransitivity of preferences in honey bees: support for ‘comparative’ evaluation of foraging options. Anim Behav 48:55–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shafir S, Waite T, Smith BH (2002) Context dependent violations of rational choice in honeybees (Apis mellifera) and gray jays (perisoreus canadensis). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 51:180–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sheng S, Parker AM, Nakamoto K (2005) Understanding the mechanism and determinants of compromise effects. Psychol Mark 22:591–609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Simonson I (1989) Choice based on reasons: the case of attraction and compromise effects. J Consum Res 16:58–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Simonson I, Tversky A (1992) Choice in context: trade off contrast and extremeness aversion. J Mark Res 29:281–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Slaughter JE (2007) Effects of two selection batteries on decoy effects in job-finalist choice. J Appl Soc Psychol 37(1):76–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tversky A, Kahneman D (1986) Rational choice and the framing of decisions. J Bus Univ Chic Press 59(4):251–278Google Scholar
  39. Tversky A, Simonson I (1993) Context dependent preferences. Manag Sci 39:1179–1189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Waite TA (2001a) Background context and decision making in hoarding gray jays. Behav Ecol 12:318–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Waite TA (2001b) Intransitive preferences in hoarding gray jays. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 50:116–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wedell DH (1991) Distinguishing among models of contextually induced preference reversal. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 17:767–778CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wicklund RA (1974) Freedom and reactance. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, PotomacGoogle Scholar
  44. Wunderle JM, O'Brien TG (1985) Risk aversion in hand-reared bananaquits. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 17:371–380Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

Personalised recommendations