News Release

Consumers stop buying as number of options increase

Study shows too much choice can leave customers empty-handed

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Bloomington, IN—March 11, 2009—It is a common belief that having more options is better, and that people tend to go to stores that provide them with more choices. However, a new study in the journal Psychology & Marketing reveals that when people cannot easily determine which option is preferable, they are more likely to leave the store empty-handed.

When options are very similar or the options are difficult to compare, people are likely to leave the store without making a choice. If there isn't enough time to acquire the necessary information for making a choice, then the individual may leave without choosing anything.

Researcher Beth Veinott, Ph.D., and colleagues performed the first simulation of the choice overload effect in which people sometimes prefer a choice among fewer options than more options. The study provides explanations for why the behavioral experiments of this effect have received mixed results.

"With the rise of the internet, the number of choices that people have is only increasing," the authors conclude. "Our research suggests that there may be a downside to this increase of options affecting people's ability to decide in a particular situation."

Various facets of what has been characterized as the "tyranny of choice" are explored in other articles featured in the March issue of Psychology & Marketing, a special issue devoted to research on consumer behavior as it relates to purchase intent and purchase choice.


This study is published in the March 2009 issue of Psychology & Marketing. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact

Beth Veinott can be reached for questions at

Psychology & Marketing (P&M) publishes original research and review articles dealing with the application of psychological theories and techniques to marketing. As an interdisciplinary journal, P&M serves practitioners and academicians in the fields of psychology and marketing and is an appropriate outlet for articles designed to be of interest, concern, and applied value to its audience of scholars and professionals. Manuscripts that use psychological theory to better understand the various aspects of the marketing of products and services are appropriate for submission.

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