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When choosing is difficult: Complexity and choice-overload

Rainer Greifeneder () and Benjamin Scheibehenne ()
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Rainer Greifeneder: Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Postal: L 13, 15, D-68131 Mannheim
Benjamin Scheibehenne: Indiana University, Cognitive Science Program, Postal: 1101 E. 10th St. Bloomington, IN 47405 USA

No 08-18, Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications from Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim

Abstract: Although consumers readily seek choice and abundance, the so-called choice-overload hypothesis suggests that having many options to choose from eventually leads to negative consequences, such as decreased post-choice satisfaction. The present research seeks to extend this claim by proposing that it is not just the number of options, but generally variables that increase the complexity of a choice task that can have detrimental effects on post-choice satisfaction. To test this hypothesis, we experimentally manipulated not only the number of options participants had to choose from, but also the number of attributes on which the options were differentiated. Moreover, we used a structural approach from information theory to capture the complexity of the respective assortments (entropy). Results revealed an inverted U-shaped relationship between information complexity and post-choice satisfaction such that there seems to be an optimal point of complexity, before and beyond which post-choice satisfaction is reduced.

Pages: 21 pages
Date: 2008-11-14
Note: Financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, SFB 504, at the University of Mannheim, is gratefully acknowledged.
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