Pinning Down Decision Preferences: Evaluating Role of Choice Architecture in Overcoming Choice Overload in Low-Stakes Subjective Decision Settings Open Access

Dsouza, Nikita (Spring 2021)

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This study evaluates how sequential tournament-styled decision models fare as an alternative to simultaneous decision models in low-stakes choice overload settings. Utilizing a between-groups experimental design, the study tracks decision satisfaction, confidence, and regret as undergraduate participants decide between sixteen decorative pins across three distinct choice architectures: an “all-at-once” simultaneous choice architecture, a sequential “two-options-at-a-time” binary choice architecture, and a sequential “four-options-at-a-time” quaternary choice architecture. In spite of the initial hypothesis that sequential decision-making models increase decision utility by making larger menus more manageable, the study found statistically significant evidence that – for low-stakes subjective decisions – participants foster higher decision utility when presented with simultaneous choice architectures as opposed to sequential choice architectures. This may be the result of several contributing factors, including but not limited to the low-stakes nature of the decision, the low-complexity nature of the decision, and the escalating feelings of commitment, indifference, and regret that arise when decision-makers navigate sequential decisions. 

Table of Contents

1. Introduction, p. 1

2. Literature Review, p. 4

2.1 Choice Overload as a Phenomenon, p. 4

2.2 Identifying Potential Roots, p. 6

2.3 Past Studies, Factors, & Solutions, p. 7

2.4 Looking Forward: The Study at Hand, p. 9 

3. Methodology, p. 11

3.1 Participants, p. 11 

3.2 Materials & Measures, p. 12

3.3 Procedure, p. 15 

3.4 Data Analysis, p. 17 

4. Results, p. 18

4.1 Preliminary Analyses: Establishing Presence of Choice Overload, p. 18

4.2 Primary Analyses: Decision Utility v. Choice Architecture, p. 19

4.3 Secondary Analyses: Demographics, Psychographics, & Context, p. 22 

5. Discussion, p. 23

5.1 Nature of Decision, p. 24

5.2 Nature of Decision-Maker, p. 26

5.3 Nature of Study, p. 30

6. Design Considerations, p. 31

6.1 Strengths, p. 31

6.2 Limitations, p. 34

6.3 Future Directions, p. 38 

7. Conclusions, p. 40

8. Works Cited, p. 42

9. Appendix, p. 46

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