Publication Date

April 2019


Andrea Patalano




English (United States)


Partition dependence is the phenomenon whereby the arbitrary grouping of options influences one’s distributions of choices or resources over the options. While partition dependence has been found using a variety of tasks, it has not been replicated in the “candy bowl task,” which involves choosing candies partitioned over bowls. We considered two possible reasons why partition dependence might not be reliably observed in this task: (1) perceptual partitions (as compared with conceptual ones) might be insufficient to elicit partition dependence, and (2) strong choice preferences might reduce the influence of partitions. In Study 1, we introduced conceptual labels for the grouped candies to emphasize the conceptual meaning of the partitions, but found no evidence of partition dependence. In Study 2, we reduced the likelihood of strong preferences by using unfamiliar candies (i.e., Chinese candy not widely consumed in the United States) and found evidence of partition dependence. In Study 3, we developed hypothetical-choice versions of the candy bowl task using digital images of either the familiar or unfamiliar candy. We again found evidence of partition dependence in the context of unfamiliar candies but not in the context of familiar ones, replicating the findings of Studies 1 and 2. Overall, the findings demonstrate that partition dependence can be elicited in a perceptual task with physical partitions, provided that individuals are sufficiently unfamiliar with the choice options.

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