Attribute-Value Functions as Global Interpretations of Attribute Importance

K. van Ittersum, J.M.E. Pennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In order to better understand decision maker’s perceptions of the importance of attributes, Goldstein (1990) differentiates between global and local interpretations of attribute importance. While the appreciation for the distinction is growing, research on the relationship between measures of global and local importance is inconclusive. We believe that these inconclusive findings are caused by operationalizing global attribute importance with single-point measures that implicitly assume that the global interpretation of attribute importance linearly depends on the relevant range of context-specific attribute levels. To address this, we propose to operationalize the global interpretation of attribute importance by estimating decision makers’ attribute-value functions. Two empirical studies demonstrate that the shape of attribute-value functions changes from concave to convex with global attribute importance. Furthermore, the steepness of these functions increases with global attribute importance while the diminishing sensitivity decreases. Finally, it is demonstrated that the inconclusive findings about the relationship between common, single-point measures of global and local attribute importance is driven by non-linearities in decision makers’ attribute-value functions. The results suggest great promise for future research on using decision makers’ attribute-value functions for measuring the importance of attributes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-102
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • loss aversion
  • reference points
  • decision-making
  • relative importance
  • value elicitation
  • reference prices
  • consumer choice
  • riskless choice
  • preferences
  • utility


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