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: Huntington acquires Louis Pasteur's notes on brewing beer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Economic games don't show altruism

Jan 16, 2015

Economic 'games' routinely used in the lab to probe people's preferences and thoughts find that humans are uniquely altruistic, sacrificing money to benefit strangers. A new study published in the journal ...

Reaching across the sea for the sake of water

Jan 09, 2015

The Arava desert, a salty wasteland dotted with tufts of scrub, gets only about an inch of rain each year. And yet cows lazily low at dairy farms that collectively produce nearly 8 million gallons of milk annually. Orange ...

Recommended for you

Toward a scientific process freed from systemic bias

Jan 26, 2015

Research on how science works - the science of science - can benefit from studying the digital traces generated during the research process, such as peer-reviewed publications. This type of research is crucial for the future ...

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.