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Document Type

Article

Abstract

When making a choice, people like to have options, but an emerging literature on “choice overload” suggests that the provision of too many options results in adverse experiences, including a depletion of cognitive resources and postdecision feelings of regret. A strong implication is that individuals should shy away from situations involving too many options. The present study examined whether this expression of choice overload would emerge when human services workers confronted hypothetical scenarios involving choices of treatment strategies. On different trials, the participants indicated preference for single-option, limited-options, and extensive-options scenarios, wherein the number of extensive-options alternatives geometrically increased across successive trials. In general, preference for extensive-options scenarios decreased with the number of options that they incorporated. Preference for extensive options was well described by a negatively decelerating, hyperbolic-like function that typically is employed in studies of discounting. Moreover, as expected based on the choice overload framework, participants who were categorized as “maximizers” using the Maximization and Regret Scales demonstrated lower discounting (i.e., lower k value) than those categorized as “satisficers.” We discuss how a quantitative discounting framework may be fruitfully applied to advance the study of choice overload.

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