The tell-tale look: Viewing time, preferences, and prices

Brian C. Gunia, J. Keith Murnighan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Even the simplest choices can prompt decision-makers to balance their preferences against other, more pragmatic considerations like price. Thus, discerning people's preferences from their decisions creates theoretical, empirical, and practical challenges. The current paper addresses these challenges by highlighting some specific circumstances in which the amount of time that people spend examining potential purchase items (i.e., viewing time) can in fact reveal their preferences. Our model builds from the gazing literature, in a purchasing context, to propose that the informational value of viewing time depends on prices. Consistent with the model's predictions, four studies show that when prices are absent or moderate, viewing time provides a signal that is consistent with a person's preferences and purchase intentions. When prices are extreme or consistent with a person's preferences, however, viewing time is a less reliable predictor of either. Thus, our model highlights a price-contingent "viewing bias," shedding theoretical, empirical, and practical light on the psychology of preferences and visual attention, and identifying a readily observable signal of preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0117137
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 12 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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