The effects of prior knowledge about a product class on various characteristics of pre-purchase information search within that product class are examined. A new search task methodology is used that imposes only a limited amount of structure on the search task: subjects are not cued with a list of attributes, and the problem is not structured in a brand-by-attribute matrix. The results indicate that prior knowledge facilitates the acquisition of new information and increases search efficiency. The results also support the conceptual distinction between objective and subjective knowledge.

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