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The lure of choice

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We report three studies demonstrating the “lure of choice”: people prefer options that permit further choices over those that do not, even when those choices cannot improve the ultimate outcome. In Studies 1 and 2, participants chose between two options: one solitary item, and a pair of items between which they would then make a further choice. Participants were lured by choice: any given item was more likely to be chosen when it was initially part of a choice pair than when it was offered on its own. We also demonstrate the lure of choice in a four door version of the Monty Hall problem, in which participants could either stick with their original choice or switch to one of two unopened doors. Participants were more likely to switch if they could first ‘choose to choose’ between the two unopened doors (without immediately specifying which) than if they had to choose one door straightaway. We conclude by discussing theoretical accounts for the lure of choice, and argue that it is due to a choice heuristic that is very reliable in the natural world, but much less so in a world created by marketers.

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