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The Gerrymandering of Attributes
Whether deciding which candidate to hire or which negotiated offer to prefer, individuals must often make decisions between alternatives that involve many attributes to be evaluated and weighed. Across multiple studies, we demonstrate that decision makers can be biased by the strategic and arbitrary grouping of attributes such that less preferable options can appear significantly more appealing, a process we call attribute gerrymandering. We apply insights from the political strategy of gerrymandering to the domain of interpersonal influence and examine how arbitrary groupings of attributes can influence preferences, even when holding constant the available information. We find that even when groupings have no unifying feature they influence choice. We discuss implications for negotiations, influence, and organizational decision making.