Adding Small Differences Can Increase Similarity and Choice

Jongmin KIM, Singapore Management University
Nathan Novemsky, Yale University
Ravi Dhar, Yale University


Similarity plays a critical role in many judgments and choices. Traditional models of similarity posit that increasing the number of differences between objects cannot increase judged similarity between them. In contrast to these previous models, the present research shows that introducing a small difference in an attribute that previously was identical across objects can increase perceived similarity between those objects. We propose an explanation based on the idea that small differences draw more attention than identical attributes do and that people’s perceptions of similarity involve averaging attributes that are salient. We provide evidence that introducing small differences between objects increases perceived similarity. We also show that an increase in similarity decreases the difficulty of choice and the likelihood that a choice will be deferred.