According to the research of Alice Tybout (Northwestern University) and colleagues, the ability to come up with one reason to drive a BMW rather than ten reasons is a result of retrieval ease, a knee-jerk phenomenon differs from judgments, considered content-based, that seek to bring in more facts.
"The present research offers evidence that knowledge accessibility influences whether judgments depend primarily on retrieval ease or on content. Content-based judgments occur when relevant knowledge is either inaccessible or highly accessible. In these circumstances, the difficulty or ease experienced in generating and retrieving reasons is anticipated and therefore is not perceived as diagnostic. Instead, judgments reflect a consideration of the available content. By contrast, when knowledge is moderately accessible, retrieval ease has a dominant effect on judgments," write the authors.
The authors explain that consumers may make more judgments based on quick thinking rather than lengthy contemplation. "A growing number of investigations document the finding that the ease with which information comes to mind may serve as the basis for judgment," they write. "Our conclusion that judgments based on retrieval ease are likely to occur only under special circumstances converges with research in other paradigms that have investigated how the process of thinking affects judgment."
Information Accessibility as a Moderator of Judgments: The Role of Content versus Retrieval Ease. Alice M. Tybout, Brian Sternthal, Prashant Malaviya, Georgios A. Bakamitsos, and Se-Bum Park. Journal of Consumer Research. June 2005.