Testing the boundaries of the choice overload phenomenon: The effect of number of options and time pressure on decision difficulty and satisfaction

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Abstract

The number of alternatives available to people in many day-to-day decisions has greatly increased in Western societies. The present research sought to build upon recent research suggesting that having large numbers of alternatives can sometimes have negative consequences for individuals. In the present experiment, participants were presented with descriptions of either 3 or 10 prizes and asked to choose one, for which they were to be entered in a drawing. The number of alternatives was manipulated in conjunction with the amount of time people were allotted to make a decision (limited vs. extended decision time). Following their decisions, participants completed measures of decision-related difficulty, task enjoyment, satisfaction, and regret. Participants given a limited amount of time to choose with a larger set of alternatives found their decisions to be more difficult and frustrating than did participants in the other conditions. The larger set of alternatives led to less satisfaction, but not less regret, with people's decisions. Implications for research on the choice overload phenomenon are discussed. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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