Preferences Matter: Alice and Bob go car shopping

Alice and Bob each need to buy cars. They are different people, from households with different needs, and – you guessed it – their preferences differ, too. Let’s see why their preferences matter.

Let’s keep this simple and imagine there are four important attributes that Alice and Bob each will consider making their choices:

1. Ride quality
2. Price
3. Crash safety
4. Warranty

Of course, it’s easy to simply declare that all four attributes are ‘equally important’ and move on. But this strategy is almost certainly inaccurate and could even be a major mistake. It is somewhat trickier to be more realistic and definitively rank the four attributes from most to least important. However, it is quite difficult to judge — with precision — how the intensity of importance varies among these attributes. Some people find that task nearly impossible to complete with confidence; they could use a little guidance.

Preference Survey to the Rescue

We can help Alice and Bob discover their relative preferences by using the Preference Survey. Quick and easy to take, the survey detects both the priority and relative importance of your preferences across multiple attributes.

The Preference Survey is indispensable when attributes are dissimilar or lack parity with one another. For example, most people would agree that ‘crash safety’ and ‘ride quality’ are not on par with one another, because health and luxury are not interchangable.

Here are the results from Alice’s Preference Survey:

Preference Profile for Alice

These results apply only to Alice and represent what is important to her. The percentages for all four attributes add up to 100; viewed altogether, these figures constitute her Preference Profile.

The Preference Survey reveals that crash safety is by far the dominant consideration for Alice. Price is next most important, but it is a distant second. The results let us estimate that Alice values crash safety about three times more than price. We can also see that ride quality and warranty, taken together, are still not as important to her as price.

Now let’s see Bob’s Preference Survey results:

Preference Profile for Bob

Price matters least to Bob. He is someone looking for a safe and smooth-riding car. These two attributes account for 82% of what matters to him. Bob’s Preference Profile is very different from Alice, but we knew from the start that they had unique preferences; quantifying the specifics of precisely how they differ is something only the Preference Survey reveals.

Preferences Matter

Mathematical relationships like these are extremely difficult to specify by merely self-reflecting. In a few moments, the Preference Survey untangles and measures your underlying preferences. Perhaps best of all, taking the Preference Survey is a non-mathematical experience.

There are no right or wrong responses to the Preference Survey. By now, it should be obvious that Alice and Bob will in all likelihood select different cars as best, even if they refer to the same performance information, say from a consumer website. This is why popular ‘best-value’ designations are essentially meaningless in practice.