Cultural Differences in Opportunity Cost Consideration

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Date
2013-08-02
Authors
Zhang, Ning
Keyword
Decision-Making , Culture , Opportunity Cost Consideration
Abstract
I conducted two studies to explore cultural differences between Chinese and European Canadians in considering opportunity cost while making purchase decisions. In Study 1, participants (121 Euro-Canadians and 119 Chinese) read a scenario in which they would decide whether to buy a single product (e.g., a backpack) or not. Participants were randomly assigned to either a condition in which opportunity cost information was made salient or a control condition in which opportunity cost was not mentioned. I found that participants in the opportunity cost salient condition displayed a higher level of opportunity cost consideration than did participants in the control condition. When individual differences in the habit of considering opportunity cost and spending habits were controlled for, Chinese participants’ purchase decisions revealed a higher degree of opportunity cost consideration than those of European Canadians. Chinese were also more likely to mention opportunity cost thoughts than did European Canadians while making the decision. In Study 2, participants chose one of two laptops to buy (one was cheaper but had less memory than the other). The results demonstrated that Chinese living in Canada displayed a higher degree of opportunity cost consideration by opting more often for the cheaper laptop, than did European Canadians. However, the culture main effect was confounded by cultural differences in family income. Study 2 also replicated the results of Study 1 that Chinese were also more likely to mention opportunity cost thoughts than European Canadians while making the decision. Although inconclusive, these results suggest that opportunity cost consideration varies, at least to some extent, across cultures. Implications of the current research for consumer behavior and directions for future research are discussed.
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