Values and preferences: Defining preference construction

Caleb Warren, A. Peter Mcgraw, Leaf Van Boven

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Extensive research in the values and preferences literature suggests that preferences are sensitive to context and calculated at the time of choice. This has led to the view that preferences are constructed. Recent work calls for a better understanding of when preferences are constructed and when they are not. We contend that the answer to this question depends on the meaning of the term constructed. Constructed can mean that a preference changes across contexts. If construction is synonymous with context sensitivity, we contend that preferences are always constructed because context influences nearly every aspect of the judgment and choice process. As a motivating example, we show that preferences are influenced by goals and goals are highly context sensitive. Constructed, however, can mean instead that a preference is calculated or formulated during the judgment and choice process. If construction is synonymous with calculation, we contend that many preferences are calculated and the more important question is to what degree preferences are calculated. We review the literature that shows that the degree to which decision makers calculate preferences is influenced by goals, cognitive constraints, and experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-205
Number of pages13
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Psychology


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