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Context Effects in Environmental Judgments: Assimilation and Contrast Effects in Separate and Joint Evaluation Modes1


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    The present research was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grants #5001-44666 and #8210-61241). The author thanks Niels Jungbluth for performing the life cycle assessment.

Carmen Tanner, University of Zurich, Department of Psychology, Cognitive Social Psychology, Binzmühlestrasse 14/18, 8050 Zürich, Switzerland. E-mail:


This research investigates whether consumers judge the environmental quality of food products differently according to whether the products are presented separately or jointly and whether assimilation or contrast effects are more likely to occur. Study 1 revealed contrast effects when products were judged in separate evaluation. Study 2 revealed assimilation effects when products were judged in joint evaluation. Increasing the range of the product alternatives, however, produced a displacement of the judgments in the opposite direction, indicating contrast effects again. Comparing the environmental judgments across both studies, reversal effects in judgments and ordering of products could be demonstrated. Overall, the findings underline that environmental judgments are highly unstable and context-dependent.