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Sequential Choice in Group Settings: Taking the Road Less Traveled and Less Enjoyed

Dan Ariely and Jonathan Levav

Journal of Consumer Research, 2000, vol. 27, issue 3, 279-90

Abstract: Many individual decisions take place in a group context wherein group members voice their choices sequentially. In this article we examine the impact of this dynamic decision process on individuals' choices and satisfaction with their outcomes. We propose that choices reflect a balancing of two classes of goals: goals that are strictly individual and goals that are triggered by the existence of the group. The latter sometimes results in choices that undermine personal satisfaction and increase regret. We find support for goal balancing in three studies in which we tracked consumers' orders of dishes and drinks. In the Lunch study we found that real groups (tables) choose more varied dishes than would be expected by random sampling of the population of all individual choices across all tables. The Beer study demonstrates that this group-level variety seeking is attributable to the interaction implicit or explicit among group members, and can be dissipated when the group is forced to "disband" and its members make strictly individual choices. Finally, the Wine study demonstrated that individual choices in a group context are also aimed at satisfying goals of information gathering and self-presentation in the form of uniqueness. Copyright 2000 by the University of Chicago.

Date: 2000
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