How to choose among presidential candidates you don't particularly like

January 23, 2008

This election season, we’re finding out that some choices are indeed tougher than others. Say you’re a die-hard Kucinich supporter or a Republican but now find yourself for practical reasons having to choose between Hillary and Obama. A new study from the February issue of the Journal of Consumer Research reveals that sometimes asking people to “reject” an option – rather than “choose” an option – makes it easier for consumers to decide among options that they don’t particularly like.

“If both the alternatives are attractive, then both provide reasons to choose, and therefore are compatible with the choose task,” explain Anish Nagpal (University of Melbourne) and Parthasarathy Krishnamurthy (University of Houston). “If both the alternatives are unattractive, neither one provides reasons to choose, and are therefore incompatible with the choose task.”

Thus, if a choice is difficult, it might not be the options that are causing the indecisiveness, but the way the decision is framed. The researchers argue that it is difficult to choose among undesirable options because none of the items offers a reason to choose it.

Indeed, asking people to choose among undesirable things leads to greater experienced conflict and greater decision difficulty, which may manifest as longer decision times. The researchers show that people tend to have an easier time choosing among things they like than among things they hate. In one study, choices were made almost 20 percent quicker between desirable alternatives (an average of 70.09 seconds) than between undesirable alternatives (an average of 86.93 seconds).

The reverse was true when consumers were asked to reject an option. Decisions involving unattractive alternatives were more than 20 percent quicker (an average of 69.50 seconds) than attractive alternatives (an average of 88.57 seconds) when consumers were asked to “reject” – as opposed to “choose” – an unappealing option.

“This suggests that consumers can control the level of difficulty that they experience by changing their decision task,” the researchers write, pointing out that consumers faced with a difficult choice have been known to give up and defer the decision to a later date.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Hong Kong banks turn to start-ups for tech edge

Related Stories

Ocean threat from Hong Kong's taste for seafood

August 10, 2015

A seafood lunch in Hong Kong is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, but with threatened species on the menu and fishing practices that endanger marine life, campaigners want to change the city's appetite.

Puerto Rico market pilot set for Project Ara phone

January 15, 2015

Ara Project lead Paul Eremenko had news about where Ara is headed this week at the second Ara Developer Conference in Cupertino, California. Puerto Rico is the first key stop. Google is to test its build-it-yourself smartphone ...

Recommended for you

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.