Evaluating ambiguous offerings
Keywords: 
Social evaluation
Categories
Ambiguity
Experimental methods
Evaluación social
Categorias
Ambigüedad
Métodos experimentales
Issue Date: 
20-Jan-2021
Publisher: 
INFORMS
ISSN: 
1526-5455
Citation: 
Romain Boulongne, Rodolphe Durand. Evaluating Ambiguous Offerings. Organization Science 32 (2) 257-272 https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2020.1402
Abstract
This paper studies how audience members categorize and evaluate ambiguous offerings. Depending on whether audience members categorize ambiguous offerings based on prototypes or goals, they activate two distinct cognitive mechanisms and evaluate differently ambiguous offerings. We expect that when audiences engage in goal- versus prototype-based categorization, their evaluation of ambiguous products increases. We theorize that, under goal-based categorization, the perceived utility of unclear attributes increases for audiences, which leads them to evaluate more positively ambiguous product offerings. We test and find support for these direct and mediated relationships through a series of laboratory, online, and field experiments. Overall, this study offers important implications for research on product and market categories, optimal distinctiveness, and market agents’ cognitive ascription of value.
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