Thursday, February 21, 2013

Should You Examine All Your Options At Once?

Stanford Professor Baba Shiv and Columbia Professor Sheena Iyengar have conducted some interesting new research about consumer decision-making processes.  They created a series of experiments to examine whether consumers were more satisfied when they examined all their options at the same time, versus looking at the options sequentially.

Their experiments involved the purchase of products including wine, chocolate, and nail polish.   The research findings showed that, "Sequential choosers were less satisfied with their chocolates than were participants in the simultaneous group. And, when offered the opportunity to switch to a different chocolate — a randomly selected one, they were told — more of the sequential choosers opted to do so, even though they knew virtually nothing about it."

What explains the higher satisfaction on the part of those examining all their options at once? The researchers argue that hope and regret play a significant role.  People in the sequential situation worry about possible future options (subsequent and unknown) that they may forgo by making a choice now.   People don't seem to have that worry when they examine a wide array of alternatives simultaneously. 

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