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Regret Theory and the Tyranny of Choice

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  • BEN IRONS
  • CAMERON HEPBURN

Abstract

As economists, we tend to accept the principle that more choice cannot make us worse off. However, recent evidence from laboratory and field experiments suggests that more choice can inhibit decision-making and reduce search in many situations, potentially reducing welfare. This paper provides a formal theoretical foundation for these observations by embedding the regret theory of Loomes and Sugden (1982) in three search models. Beyond a threshold number of options, we find that 'less is more': agents who experience regret have lower utility as the number of options is increased. Copyright © 2007 The Economic Society of Australia.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Irons & Cameron Hepburn, 2007. "Regret Theory and the Tyranny of Choice," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 83(261), pages 191-203, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecorec:v:83:y:2007:i:261:p:191-203
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Sabrina Jeworrek & Vanessa Mertins, 2014. "Wage Delegation in the Field," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201408, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
    2. Tshilidzi Marwala, 2017. "Rational Choice and Artificial Intelligence," Papers 1703.10098, arXiv.org.
    3. Javad Nasiry & Ioana Popescu, 2012. "Advance Selling When Consumers Regret," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(6), pages 1160-1177, June.
    4. Tassos Patokos, 2014. "Introducing Disappointment Dynamics and Comparing Behaviors in Evolutionary Games: Some Simulation Results," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(1), pages 1-25, January.
    5. repec:eee:jouret:v:89:y:2013:i:4:p:374-396 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Fankhauser, Samuel & Hepburn, Cameron, 2010. "Designing carbon markets, Part II: Carbon markets in space," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(8), pages 4381-4387, August.
    7. Godoy, Ricardo & Zeinalova, Elizabeth & Reyes-García, Victoria & Huanca, Tomás & Kosiewicz, Holly & Leonard, William R. & Tanner, Susan, 2010. "Does civilization cause discontentment among indigenous Amazonians? Test of empirical data from the Tsimane' of Bolivia," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 587-598, August.
    8. Dmitri Kuksov & J. Miguel Villas-Boas, 2010. "When More Alternatives Lead to Less Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(3), pages 507-524, 05-06.
    9. Malone, Trey & Lusk, Jayson L., 2017. "The excessive choice effect meets the market: A field experiment on craft beer choice," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 8-13.
    10. J. Miguel Villas-Boas, 2009. "Product Variety and Endogenous Pricing with Evaluation Costs," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(8), pages 1338-1346, August.
    11. Fankhauser, Samuel & Hepburn, Cameron, 2009. "Carbon markets in space and time," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 37606, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    12. Terry Connolly & Jochen Reb, 2012. "Regret aversion in reason-based choice," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 73(1), pages 35-51, July.
    13. Edwards, James T. & List, John A., 2014. "Toward an understanding of why suggestions work in charitable fundraising: Theory and evidence from a natural field experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 1-13.
    14. Jason T. Abaluck & Jonathan Gruber, 2009. "Choice Inconsistencies Among the Elderly: Evidence from Plan Choice in the Medicare Part D Program," NBER Working Papers 14759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Iyengar, Sheena S. & Kamenica, Emir, 2010. "Choice proliferation, simplicity seeking, and asset allocation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 530-539, August.
    16. Krähmer, Daniel & Stone, Rebecca, 2005. "Regret in Dynamic Decision Problems," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 71, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    17. Cameron Hepburn & Stephen Duncan & Antonis Papachristodoulou, 2010. "Behavioural Economics, Hyperbolic Discounting and Environmental Policy," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 46(2), pages 189-206, June.

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