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Complicating Choice

Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 308-326, 2011

Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 12-20

20 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2011 Last revised: 1 Feb 2014

Rom Y. Schrift

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Oded Netzer

Columbia Business School - Marketing

Ran Kivetz

Columbia Business School - Marketing

Date Written: 2011

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. The authors demonstrate that, in order to complicate their choices, consumers increase choice conflict by over-weighing small disadvantages of superior alternatives, converging overall evaluations of alternatives, reversing the ordinal value of attributes, and even choosing less preferred alternatives. Further, the results from five 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 increase their effort.

Suggested Citation

Schrift, Rom Y. and Netzer, Oded and Kivetz, Ran, Complicating Choice (2011). Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 48, No. 2, pp. 308-326, 2011; Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 12-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1959767

Rom Y. Schrift

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

700 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6340
United States

Oded Netzer

Columbia Business School - Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

Ran Kivetz (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Marketing ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States

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