The Effects of Process and Outcome Similarity on Users' Evaluations of Decision Aids*


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    We would like to thank Dale Griffin, Carson Woo, and Jai-Yeol Son for their helpful comments. We also thank the reviewers, the associate editor, and the senior editor for their detailed and helpful suggestions, which significantly improved the quality of this article. This work was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada awarded to Izak Benbasat.

Corresponding author.


Decision aids (DA) used in online shopping contexts have been shown to improve users' product choices. Given that previous research (e.g., Byrne & Griffitt, 1973) has demonstrated the positive effects of perceived similarity on an individual's evaluation of others, this study investigates the effects of users' perceived similarity with a DA on their evaluations of that DA. More specifically, we investigate the effect of users' perceptions of the similarity between their own decision process and that followed by the DA to arrive at a recommendation (decision process similarity), as well as the similarity between the recommendations made by the DA and users' initial choices (outcome similarity), on their evaluations of the DA's usefulness and trustworthiness. The results of this study show that perceived process similarity exerts positive and significant effects on users' perceptions of the DA's usefulness and trustworthiness. However, the effects of perceived outcome similarity on trust are completely mediated by perceived process similarity. It is also observed that the level of the user's domain knowledge moderates the effects of perceived decision process similarity on both perceived usefulness and trustworthiness. These results have implications for DA design. It is important that designers consider the process by which users make decisions for themselves and align the DA's decision process with those of the user's, especially for the novice user. The full mediation of the effect of outcome similarity on trust by process similarity highlights how a similar decision process can mitigate some of the negative effects of outcome dissimilarity.