Too many choices can spoil the research

Jun 26, 2008

The more choices people get, the less consistent they are in making those choices, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. The study's findings may affect the way researchers examine consumer choices.

Authors Jordan J. Louviere (University of Technology, Sydney), Towhidul Islam (University of Guelph, Ontario), Nada Wasi, Deborah Street, and Leonie Burgess (all University of Technology, Sydney) examined choice experiments, where researchers study which brands or products consumers prefer. The research found that experiments that are considered "statistically efficient" (asking complex questions of fewer respondents) lead to less consistency in participants' choices.

"The likely price a researcher pays in using optimal designs is less consistent choices," write the authors.

The authors constructed experiments where participants had to choose among a number of options for ordering pizza or choosing vacations. They designed 22 different questionnaires with varied amounts of attributes. They found that the more efficient the study design was, the less consistent participants were with their choices.

The most efficient designs use many different attributes (such as delivery time and quality of ingredients for pizza). The authors believe that highly efficient study designs impose a higher cognitive load on the participants (requiring more thought for each response). That's why their responses decrease in consistency.

"Our results suggest that researchers should pay attention to the ways that they design or administer experiments because these decisions can impact choice outcomes and choice variability," write the authors.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Corporate interest is a problem for research into open-access publishing

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Identifying the source of stem cells

1 hour ago

When most animals begin life, cells immediately begin accepting assignments to become a head, tail or a vital organ. However, mammals, including humans, are special. The cells of mammalian embryos get to ...

New policymaking tool for shift to renewable energy

Oct 23, 2014

Multiple pathways exist to a low greenhouse gas future, all involving increased efficiency and a dramatic shift in energy supply away from fossil fuels. A new tool 'SWITCH' enables policymakers and planners to assess the ...

How large-scale technology projects affect knowledge

Oct 21, 2014

What do an accelerator complex at Cern, a manufacturing center in 19th century Philadelphia and lotus cultivation during the Qing dynasty all have in common? All such activities generate knowledge and know-how. ...

HARCO Project: Intelligence in manufacturing equipment

Oct 14, 2014

For many years we have been witnessing an unstoppable process towards the incorporating of "intelligence" into manufacturing processes. In the 1950s the incorporation of Numerical Controls, and the subsequently computerised ...

Maths brilliance in systems engineering

Oct 08, 2014

"I was trained as an applied mathematician with a strong emphasis on statistics as a student at Dhaka University, Bangladesh. It transpired that this is not a common combination and I then went on to do my ...

Recommended for you

UC Santa Barbara receives $65M from Munger

Oct 30, 2014

A physics institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has received a $65 million donation—the largest single gift in the university's history.

Prophet's ancient seal provides insights from antiquity

Oct 30, 2014

When a personal artifact of a religious leader is discovered nearly 1,700 years after its use, the object provides invaluable historical insights. Zsuzsanna Gulacsi, professor of Comparative Cultural Studies, ...

User comments : 0

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.