The Effect of Ordering Decisions by Choice-Set Size on Consumer Search

The Effect of Ordering Decisions by Choice-Set Size on Consumer Search

By
Jonathan Levav, Nicholas Reinholtz, Claire Lin
Journal of Consumer Research. October
2012, Vol. 39, Issue 3, Pages 585-599

Consumers frequently engage in sequential decisions. This article explores whether the order of these decisions can influence the manner in which consumers search through the possible choice options. Results from five studies suggest that ordering decisions by increasing (vs. decreasing) choice-set size leads to greater search depth (measured by both sampling count and decision time). Initial, smaller choice sets in increasing sequences appear to initiate a maximizing mind-set, which then persists even as participants encounter later, larger choice sets. These participants report a greater desire to maximize and are less satisfied with their decisions, consistent with research on chronic maximizers. In addition, they continue to exhibit maximizing behavior in subsequent, unrelated tasks, supporting a mind-set account of the differences in search. In sum, decision makers are proposed to be “sticky adapters”: initial decision strategies seem to constrain the extent to which they adapt to new contexts.