Contrast Effect in Spatial Context: Robustness and Practical Significance

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Abstract

Contrary to lay conceptions, unattractive locations can under certain circumstances increase the perceived value of neighboring areas. This phenomenon is akin to a contrast effect. However, extant research on this type of contrast suffers from two limitations. First, the use of repeated measures may inflate the likelihood of observing a contrast effect. Second, there is a lack of meaningful comparisons for gauging the size of the effect. We designed three experiments to address these issues. In each, we assessed how much participants valued places located increasingly far from an unsafe housing block. Participants either rated several target locations or just a single one at a time. We also assessed whether the positiveness of the contrast effect due to the unsafe housing block would be able to compete with the positive effect of a nearby park. The results replicate past findings of a contrast effect in spatial context; they show that the effect generalizes to a different design; and they demonstrate that a contrast effect due to an unattractive location can indeed be as “beneficial” for some neighboring areas as the effect of a genuinely attractive location.

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