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Dissertations

Complicating Choice

Rom Schrift, 2011
Faculty Advisor: Ran Kivetz

Abstract

A great deal of research in consumer decision-making and social-cognition has explored consumers' attempts to simplify choices by bolstering their tentative choice candidate and/or denigrating the other alternatives. The present research investigates a diametrically opposed process, whereby consumers complicate their decisions. It is demonstrated that, in order to complicate their choices, consumers increase choice conflict by over-weighing small disadvantages of superior alternatives, converging overall evaluations of alternatives, distorting information they retrieve from memory, selectively interpret information, reversing the ordinal value of attributes, and even choosing less preferred alternatives. Further, the results from nine studies support a unifying theoretical framework, namely the effort-compatibility principle. Specifically, it is argued that consumers strive for compatibility between the effort they anticipate and the effort that they actually exert. When a certain decision seems more difficult than initially expected, a simplifying process ensues. However, when the decision feels easier to resolve than was anticipated (e.g., when consumers face an important, yet easy choice), consumers artificially construct a more effortful choice.

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