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Satisfaction in choice as a function of the number of alternatives: When "goods satiate" but "bads escalate"

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Abstract

Whereas people are typically thought to be better off with more choices, studies show that they often prefer to choose from small as opposed to large sets of alternatives. We propose that satisfaction from choice is an inverted U-shaped function of the number of alternatives. This proposition is derived theoretically by considering the benefits and costs of different numbers of alternatives and is supported by four experimental studies. We also manipulate the perceptual costs of information processing and demonstrate how this affects the resulting “satisfaction function.” We further indicate that satisfaction when choosing from a given set is diminished if people are made aware of the existence of other choice sets. The role of individual differences in satisfaction from choice is documented by noting effects due to gender and culture. We conclude by emphasizing the need to have an explicit rationale for knowing how much choice is “enough.”

Suggested Citation

  • Elena Reutskaja & Robin Hogarth, 2005. "Satisfaction in choice as a function of the number of alternatives: When "goods satiate" but "bads escalate"," Economics Working Papers 903, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 2006.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:903
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    Keywords

    Consumer choice; perception of variety; tyranny of choice; visual perception; cultural differences; Leex;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • M10 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - General
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing

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