Scope Insensitivity in the Service of the Rational Self: the “Mere Token” Effect

Oleg Urminsky, Columbia University, USA
Ran Kivetz, Columbia University, USa
Decisions often involve tradeoffs between a more normative or rational dimension and a less normative but more tempting dimension. We propose that the intrapersonal conflict evoked by such choices is resolved though scope insensitive justifications. We demonstrate that adding a certain and immediate “mere token” amount to both options increases choices of the later-larger option in intertemporal choices and of the larger-riskier option in risky choice, contrary to models of rational choice. Reducing the degree of intrapersonal choice conflict, either by manipulating the attractiveness of the more tempting option or by increasing psychological distance to choice outcomes, debiases the effect.
[ to cite ]:
Oleg Urminsky and Ran Kivetz (2007) ,"Scope Insensitivity in the Service of the Rational Self: the “Mere Token” Effect", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 34, eds. Gavan Fitzsimons and Vicki Morwitz, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 515-516.