Motivated by continued interest within the design community to model design preferences, this paper investigates the question of predicting preferences with particular application to consumer purchase behavior: How can we obtain high prediction accuracy in a consumer preference model using market purchase data? To this end, we employ sparse coding and sparse restricted Boltzmann machines, recent methods from machine learning, to transform the original market data into a sparse and high-dimensional representation. We show that these ‘feature learning’ techniques, which are independent from the preference model itself (e.g., logit model), can complement existing efforts towards high-accuracy preference prediction. Using actual passenger car market data, we achieve significant improvement in prediction accuracy on a binary preference task by properly transforming the original consumer variables and passenger car variables to a sparse and high-dimensional representation.

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