Too much of a good thing: The impact of option alignability on search overinvestment
Search investment is the process whereby people expend resources on search in anticipation of some benefit. Generally, it is assumed that increased search effort results in greater satisfaction with the choice. This research challenges that notion. Specifically, the impact of option alignability on search quantity and search outcomes is examined.
Options that vary along a comparable dimension are characterized as alignable, whereas options that vary along unique dimensions are said to be nonalignable. In three studies, it is shown that people are more inclined to continue searching when options are nonalignable than when they are alignable. Furthermore, desires increase and satisfaction decreases after a point as people consider more nonalignable options. This research provides evidence that feature exposure is the mechanism driving the increase in desires and the subsequent decline in satisfaction.
This research demonstrates the paradox that people search more options precisely when further search is detrimental to subjective outcomes. The findings are important to retailers who wish to determine the number and types of options to present in an assortment and to consumers striving to make the best use of their time and effort in making decisions.