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Choosing to Have Less Choice

Author

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  • Maria Salgano

    (Northwestern University)

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Maria Salgano, 2006. "Choosing to Have Less Choice," Working Papers 2006.37, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  • Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2006.37
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Choice; Opportunity Sets;

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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