What moderates the too-much-choice effect?

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Abstract

Core theories in economics, psychology, and marketing suggest that decision makers benefit from having more choice. In contrast, according to the too-much-choice effect, having too many options to choose from may ultimately decrease the motivation to choose and the satisfaction with the chosen option. To reconcile these two positions, we tested whether there are specific conditions in which the too-much-choice effect is more or less likely to occur. In three studies with a total of 598 participants, we systematically investigated the moderating impact of choice set sizes, option attractiveness, and whether participants had to justify their choices. We also tested the moderating role of search behavior, domain-specific expertise, and participants' tendency to maximize, in a within-subject design. Overall, only choice justification proved to be an effective moderator, calling the extent of the too-much-choice effect into question. We provide a theoretical account for our findings and discuss possible pathways for future research. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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