The out-of-region bias: Distance estimations based on geographic category membership

Caglar Irmak, Rebecca Walker Naylor, William O. Bearden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


This research addresses estimations of distance, an important factor in numerous consumer decisions (e.g., store choice, willingness to pay for travel). Our central hypothesis is that when two places are located in the same geographic category, individuals estimate them to be closer to each other than when they are located in different categories, a bias we term "the out-of-region bias." In study 1, we demonstrate that participants are more willing to visit a store located in the city in which they live rather than a store located in a neighboring city because they mistakenly think that a store in their city is closer to home. In studies 2a and b, we show that the out-of-region bias leads consumers to express higher willingness to pay for an airline ticket that involves travel across versus within regions because they inaccurately estimate greater distance between cities that are located in different regions (vs. the same region). Study 2a also demonstrates that the out-of-region bias is ameliorated in the presence of a map, indicating that the bias is a conceptual (vs. perceptual) bias, and study 2b rules out an alternative explanation for our results based on consumers' tendency to exaggerate north-south distances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-196
Number of pages16
JournalMarketing Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Conceptual bias
  • Distance estimates
  • Geographic reasoning
  • Spatial categorization
  • Store choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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