Research on choice overload has demonstrated that choosing from larger, versus smaller, sets can reduce consumers’ wellbeing. However, in real life consumers seem able to cope with ever-expanding assortments better than what this research would predict. We argue that this discrepancy depends on differences in choice timeframes: Whereas participants in choice overload studies usually make a one-off choice within a limited amount of time, real consumers often spend longer time making certain choices and/or experience repeated exposures to the same choice over time. This paper investigates the effect of timeframe on subjective choice experience. More time at each choice occasion improves confidence for participants choosing from larger, relative to smaller, sets but decreases their positive affect; repeated choice exposures over time increase confidence without impairing affect. We explain these results through the different effort required for processing information when choosing within these two different timeframes.
Botti, Simona, and Sheena Iyengar. "So Many Choices, So Little Time: The Influence of Timeframe on Decision Confidence and Affect." Working paper, Columbia Business School, August 24, 2010.
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