Companies can create value by differentiating their products and services along quantitative attributes. Existing research suggests that consumers’ tendency to rely on relatively effortless and affect-based processes reduces their sensitivity to the scope of quantitative attributes and that this explains why increments along quantitative attributes often have diminishing marginal value. The current article sheds new light on how “system 1” processes moderate the effect of quantitative product attributes on subjective value. Seven studies provide evidence that system 1 processes can produce diminishing marginal value, but also increasing marginal value, or any combination of the two, depending on the composition of the choice set. This is because system 1 processes facilitate ordinal comparisons (e.g., 256 GB is more than 128 GB, which is more than 64 GB) while system 2 processes, which are relatively more effortful and calculation based, facilitate cardinal comparisons (e.g., the difference between 256 and 128 GB is twice as large as between 128 and 64 GB).

product differentiation, scope sensitivity, diminishing marginal value, dual-process theory, range–frequency theory, numerical cognition,
Journal of Consumer Research
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

Schley, D.R, de Langhe, B, & Long, A.R. (2020). System 1 Is Not Scope Insensitive. Journal of Consumer Research, 47(4), 566–587. doi:10.1093/jcr/ucaa015