Satisfaction in choice as a function of the number of alternatives: When “goods satiate”

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Abstract

People are typically thought to be better off with more choices, yet often prefer to choose from few alternatives. By considering the perceived benefits and costs of choice, it is proposed that satisfaction from choice is an inverted U-shaped function of the number of alternatives. This proposition is verified experimentally. It is further hypothesized that differences in cognitive costs affect the relative location of the function's peak. Specifically, since—in large sets—perceptual costs of processing alternatives varying in shape are greater than for alternatives varying in color, the peak of the satisfaction function for the latter will lie to the right of the former. This prediction is also validated. The paper emphasizes the need for an explicit rationale for knowing how much choice is “enough.” © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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