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Choosing to Have Less Choice

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  • Maria Salgano

    (Northwestern University)

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    Abstract

    This paper investigates choice between opportunity sets. I argue that individuals may prefer to have fewer options for two reasons: First, smaller choice sets may provide information and reduce the need for the agent to contemplate the alternatives. Second, contemplation costs may be increasing in the size of the choice set, making smaller sets more desirable even when they do not provide any information to the agent. I identify which of these reasons drives individual behavior in a laboratory experiment. I find strong support for both the information and cognitive overload arguments. The effects do not disappear as participants gain experience with the task. Applications of these results include firms’ choices of product variety, as costs increase with the number of products offered, and the design of government policies, such as the Medicare Drug Discount Card Program, in which older citizens can choose among numerous cards for discounts in prescription drugs.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2006.37.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2006
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    Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2006.37

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    Related research

    Keywords: Choice; Opportunity Sets;

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    References

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    1. Daniel McFadden, 1998. "Rationality for Economists?," Working Papers 98-09-086, Santa Fe Institute.
    2. Malhotra, Naresh K, 1982. " Information Load and Consumer Decision Making," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8(4), pages 419-30, March.
    3. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
    4. Marianne Bertrand & Dean Karlin & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2005. "What's Psychology Worth? A Field Experiment in the Consumer Credit Market," NBER Working Papers 11892, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan & Dean Karlan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "What's Advertising Content Worth? Evidence from a Consumer Credit Marketing Field Experiment," Working Papers 968, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    6. Barry L. Bayus & William P. Putsis, Jr., 1999. "Product Proliferation: An Empirical Analysis of Product Line Determinants and Market Outcomes," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 18(2), pages 137-153.
    7. Manski, Charles F., 2000. "Identification problems and decisions under ambiguity: Empirical analysis of treatment response and normative analysis of treatment choice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 95(2), pages 415-442, April.
    8. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 2010. "A theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom and cultural change as informational Cascades," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1193, David K. Levine.
    9. Marianne Bertrand & Dean Karlan & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2006. "What's psychology worth? A field experiment in the consumer credit market," Natural Field Experiments 00217, The Field Experiments Website.
    10. Michaela Draganska & Dipak C. Jain, 2005. "Product-Line Length as a Competitive Tool," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(1), pages 1-28, 03.
    11. Jacoby, Jacob, 1984. " Perspectives on Information Overload," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(4), pages 432-35, March.
    12. W. Pesendorfer & F. Gul, 1999. "Temptation and Self-Control," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 99f1, Economics Department, Princeton University.
    13. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1982. "Regret Theory: An Alternative Theory of Rational Choice under Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 805-24, December.
    14. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
    15. Kreps, David M, 1979. "A Representation Theorem for "Preference for Flexibility"," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(3), pages 565-77, May.
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