A Perspective on Using Computers to Monitor Information Acquisition

James R. Bettman, Duke University
Eric J. Johnson, University of Pennsylvania
John W. Payne, Duke University
ABSTRACT - In this note, we reply to the section of Jacoby's 1994 Fellow Address (Jacoby 1995, pp. 24-26) focusing upon our acknowledgment of his prior work in our 1989 users' manual for the MOUSELAB system (Johnson, Payne, Schkade, and Bettman 1989). We dispute Jacoby's arguments; we believe that the development of computer-based information search procedures was part of the zeitgeist of the 1970s and 1980s and that many researchers, including Jacoby and us, made contributions to monitoring information acquisition.
[ to cite ]:
James R. Bettman, Eric J. Johnson, and John W. Payne (1995) ,"A Perspective on Using Computers to Monitor Information Acquisition", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 49-51.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 22, 1995      Pages 49-51

A PERSPECTIVE ON USING COMPUTERS TO MONITOR INFORMATION ACQUISITION

James R. Bettman, Duke University

Eric J. Johnson, University of Pennsylvania

John W. Payne, Duke University

ABSTRACT -

In this note, we reply to the section of Jacoby's 1994 Fellow Address (Jacoby 1995, pp. 24-26) focusing upon our acknowledgment of his prior work in our 1989 users' manual for the MOUSELAB system (Johnson, Payne, Schkade, and Bettman 1989). We dispute Jacoby's arguments; we believe that the development of computer-based information search procedures was part of the zeitgeist of the 1970s and 1980s and that many researchers, including Jacoby and us, made contributions to monitoring information acquisition.

We make four major points:

(1)Jacoby informed us of his allegations in correspondence in 1992, stating that "if you folks had developed such procedures prior to mid-1979, used them prior to 1980, and published articles in refereed journals describing these procedures prior to 1984 then, provided with some evidence of this, with deep humility and the utmost of sincerity, I would apologize profusely for bothering you with these two letters."

(2)We then wrote Jacoby, pointing out such prior publications as Payne and Braunstein (1978). He responded that "While I've seen occasional references to the 1978 Payne and Braunstein piece, I don't believe I ever read it... I agree that this sets the record straight about Mouselab and its relation to prior work... and do apologize if my earlier letters caused you concern."

(3)We cited the work of Jacoby and others (Payne and Braunstein 1978; Jacoby, Mazursky, Troutman, and Kuss 1984; Dahlstrand and Montgomery 1984; Brucks 1988) when we adapted part of our MOUSELAB manual for publication as an appendix in our 1993 book The Adaptive Decision Maker (Payne, Bettman, and Johnson 1993). We informed Jacoby in our 1992 correspondence of these upcoming citations, and the book appeared in 1993 well before the 1994 ACR Conference.

(4)We were therefore shocked to see Jacoby's charges repeated in his 1994 Fellow Address when he had stated in his correspondence with us that the matter was settled. [Although we reference this 1992 correspondence throughout this reply, ACR chose not to publish appendices of correspondence. Copies of the entire correspondence are available from the authors upon request.]

FURTHER DETAILS

We now provide some further details about the above points. The essence of Jacoby's allegations (pp. 24-26, Jacoby 1995) is that we failed to explicitly reference previous research that used personal computers to study information acquisition behavior in our MOUSELAB systems manual (Johnson, Payne, Schkade, & Bettman 1989). [It is important to recognize that the 1989 paper by Johnson, Payne, Schkade, and Bettman was written as a manual for the MOUSELAB computer program. Thus, the majority of the test is examples of how to program and use MOUSELAB.] Jacoby argues that our manual implies "that there were no other previous instances where computers have been used to study consumer information acquisition" (Jacoby 1995, p. 24). [At the time Jacoby first made his allegations in 1992, he did not cite the most current version of the MOUSELAB manual, which was a 1991 version. That 1991 version contained many changes in wording from the 1989 version throughout the manual. Earlier versions of the manual than 1989 also exist.]

Jacoby (1995) then references several papers by Jacoby et al. published in the period 1984-1987 and concludes that "the three articles published in recognized peer review journals all confirm that others not only developed and used, but were the first to publish articles using a "computer-controlled pointing device" and set of procedures offering "a number of flexible graphics and process tracing techniques" for studying information acquisition" (Jacoby 1995, p. 25). Jacoby then argues that Jim Bettman knew of this work since Jim was on a 1979 advisory panel for an NSF grant to Jacoby that resulted in the published papers from 1984-87 and Jim served as editor for a 1984 submission by Jacoby to the Journal of Consumer Research using this technique. [Bettman was indeed exposed briefly to Jacoby's proposal in 1979 and served as the editor for Jacoby's 1984 submission. Bettman served as the editor for hundreds of papers during his 6+ year JCR tenure; his memory of the Jacoby manuscript was limited to the notion that it studied security analysis.] As we point out below, however, Bettman's exposure to Jacoby's work is irrelevant to our main points.

In our 1992 correspondence, Jacoby was informed that Payne had published an article in a refereed journal in 1978 that used a computer-based system to monitor the information acquisition behavior of decision makers (see Payne & Braunstein 1978, p. 555). Thus, six years before the peer reviewed publications referenced by Jacoby in his address, and before any exposure of Jim Bettman to Jacoby's work, Payne had published an article in a refereed journal using a computer-based approach to study the content, amount, and sequence of information acquisitions. In a companion working paper to Payne and Braunstein (1978), Payne and Braunstein (1977) describe a second system that used a wheel moving crosshairs as a pointing device and a computer-based information display board. That paper was referenced in Russo (1978, p. 569), a paper presented by Russo at a 1977 ACR special session in which Jacoby was a participant. The papers by Payne are also referenced in a published paper by Payne, Braunstein, and Carroll (1978, p. 35), which is a often-cited paper dealing with methods for exploring pre-decision behavior.

Given that Payne and Braunstein had published an article in 1978 that used a computer-based system to monitor information acquisition behavior, it seems difficult to argue that we were claiming that the use of computers to monitor information acquisition was new in the mid to late 1980s. Our emphasis in our 1989 description of the MOUSELAB system is on the use of a mouse as a pointing device, and most of the introduction in the MOUSELAB manual conerns why a mouse is a superior pointing device. That was what we thought was new. That was why the system was called MOUSELAB! Extensive citing of prior work by Payne or anyone else did not seem relevant for a users' manual whose major purpose was to describe the features of the mouse-based system and how to use it.

In the 1992 exchange of correspondence that we refer to above and Jacoby refers to in his remarks (Jacoby 1995 p. 25), Jacoby wrote on June 2, 1992 that "if you folks had developed such procedures prior to mid-1979, used them prior to 1980, and published articles in refereed journals describing these procedures prior to 1984 then, provided with some evidence of this, with deep humility and the utmost of sincerity, I would apologize profusely for bothering you with these two letters." Johnson then sent Jacoby a letter and copies of Payne and Braunstein (1978) and the related unpublished paper by Payne and Braunstein (1977) on June 19, 1992. After receiving Johnson's letter and the copies of the papers, Jacoby wrote a letter to Johnson on July 7, 1992 in which he stated that "While I've seen occasional references to the 1978 Payne and Braunstein piece, I don't believe I ever read it. If I did, evidently I did not remember the use of a computer-based procedure for assessing information acquisition. Regardless, I agree that this sets the record straight about Mouselab and its relation to prior work... I appreciate the spirit in which your letter was written and do apologize if my earlier letters caused you concern." Interestingly, Jacoby stated in his April 16, 1992 letter to Johnson that "I have no question that you folks were the first to develop the "mouse" approach and are clearly entitled to claim being first in this regard."

The purpose of the paragraphs above is not to establish whether we were the first to use computer-based systems to monitor information acquisition behavior. Perhaps others used computer-based systems and pointing devices earlier than either Payne or Jacoby; certainly it was the obvious next step to develop computerized versions once Information Display Boards (IDBs) had been introduced (Wilkins (1967) had used IDBs as early as the 1960s), and many other clever computer-based approaches were also being used during the 1980s (e.g., Brucks 1985). It is our belief, indeed, that the zeitgeist of the information processing revolution made such approaches inevitable, and the nature of computer-based systems for monitoring information acquisition behavior became more sophisticated as computers became more sophisticated from the mid 1970s on. As an example of the effect of this zeitgeist, Jacoby states in his Fellow Address that "both the Jacoby and Payne teams seem to have developed computer IDBs at approximately the same time, circa 1975-76" (Jacoby 1995, p. 25) (Parenthetically, although Jacoby refers to the "Payne team," Payne's early work was his own; Johnson did not begin to work with Payne until roughly 1981, and Bettman did not begin to work with them until roughly 1983).

In the same July 7, 1992 letter in which Jacoby acknowledges that the record had been set straight about MOUSELAB and its relation to prior work, he asked that any future descriptions of MOUSELAB be more specific in referencing other work that used computer systems of various types to monitor information acquisition during decision making. In our 1993 book, The Adaptive Decision Maker (Payne, Bettman, and Johnson 1993), we did exactly that, describing the MOUSELAB system in an appendix and explicitly referencing Brucks 1988; Dahlstrand & Montgomery 1984; Jacoby et al. 1984, and Payne and Braunstein 1978 as examples of other computer-based information acquisition procedures. Jacoby was made aware of this forthcoming cite to his work in The Adaptive Decision Maker by Eric Johnson in his letter of June 19, 1992. The book was published by Cambridge University Press in 1993, well before the October 1994 ACR Conference. We do not know why Jacoby failed to acknowledge this more recent 1993 description of MOUSELAB or the prior work we had brought to his attention.

Thus, we felt that the matter had been amicably resolved, privately and in good faith, in 1992. We were therefore shocked to see these charges repeated in Jacoby's Fellow Address, given the earlier statements in Jacoby's July 7, 1992 letter.

Jack Jacoby has made contributions to consumer research and to the development and use of information monitoring techniques in particular. We have acknowledged those contributions where appropriate in our own work for almost two decades. We believe that techniques for monitoring information acquisition are simply tools, and our greatest excitement in our work has come from using these process-tracing tools to uncover substantive results that help reveal the inner workings of decision processes.

REFERENCES

Brucks, Merrie (1985), "The Effects of Product Class Knowledge on Information Search Behavior," Journal of Consumer Research, 12 (June), 1-16.

Brucks, Merrie (1988), "Search Monitor: An Approach for Computer-Controlled Experiments Involving Consumer Information Search," Journal of Consumer Research, 15 (June), 117-121.

Dahlstrand, Ulf, and Henry Montgomery (1984), "Information Search and Evaluation Processes in Decision Making: A Computer Based Process Tracing Study," Acta Psychologica, 56, 113-123.

Jacoby, Jacob (1995), "Ethics, Morality, and the Dark Side of ACR: Implications for Our Future," in Advances in Consumer Research, Volume XXII, eds. Frank R. Kardes and Mita Sujan, Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.

Jacoby, Jacob, David Mazursky, Tracy Troutman, and Alfred Kuss (1984), "When Feedback is Ignored: The Disutility of Outcome Feedback," Journal of Applied Psychology, 69, 531-545.

Johnson, Eric J., John W. Payne, David A. Schkade, and James R. Bettman (1989), "Monitoring Information Processing and Decisions: The Mouselab System," Unpublished Manuscript, Center for Decision Studies, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.

Payne, John W., James R. Bettman, and Eric J. Johnson (1993). The Adaptive Decision Maker, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Payne, John W., and Myron L. Braunstein (1977), "Task Complexity and Contingent Processing in Decision Making: A Replication and Extension to Risky Choice," Unpublished Working Paper, University of Chicago.

Payne, John W., and Myron L. Braunstein (1978), "Risky Choice: An Examination of Information Acquisition Behavior," Memory and Cognition, 6 (5), 554-561.

Payne, John W., Myron L. Braunstein, and John S. Carroll (1978), "Exploring Predecisional Behavior: An Alternative Approach to Decision Research," Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 22, 17-44.

Russo, J. Edward (1978), "Eye Fixations Can Save the World: A Critical Evaluation and a Comparison Between Eye Fixations and Other Information Processing Methodologies," in Advances in Consumer Research, Volume V, ed. H. Keith Hunt, Ann Arbor: Association for Consumer Research, 561-570.

Wilkins, L. T. (1967), Social Deviance, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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