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What We Have Learned from 20 Years of Conjoint Research: When to Use Self-Explicated, Graded Pairs, Full Profiles or Choice Experiments (1997)

Joel Huber, Duke University, points out that respondents adopt different strategies for answering different types of conjoint questions. Researchers should understand these simplification strategies and match the right method to the context of actual marketplace decisions. Huber summarizes the strengths of the methods as follows:

  • Self-explicated models are best in the case of many attributes, where expectations about levels and associations among attributes are stable. They work better in predicting decisions about independent alternatives than for competitive contexts.
  • Paired comparisons are most appropriate for modeling markets in which alternatives are explicitly compared with one another, approximating a deeper search of a broad range of attributes, and where within-attribute value steps are smooth and approximately linear.
  • Full-Profile works best when it is desirable to abstract from short run beliefs, when market choices reflect simplification toward the most important variables, and the decision focus is more within alternative rather than explicitly made using side-by-side comparisons between options.
  • Choice is most appropriate for simulating immediate response to competitive offerings, when decisions are made based on relatively few attributes with substantial aversion to the worst levels of each attribute, and when consumers make decisions based on comparative differences among attributes.

In contrast to what is becoming popular agreement regarding the superiority of choices, Huber cautions that choices may not always work better than more traditional approaches. (Originally published in our 1997 Sawtooth Software Proceedings.)

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