Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Reference Dependence and Choice Overload

Deb, Joyee and Zhou, Jidong (2018): Reference Dependence and Choice Overload.


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This paper offers an explanation for choice overload based on reference-dependent preferences. Consumers construct an ideal object that combines the best attributes of all objects in their choice set, and use this as a reference point. When the choice set expands, it is more likely to find a better object, but meanwhile the reference point improves, which makes all existing objects appear worse. We characterize when the latter reference-dependence effect dominates such that choice overload arises. We also show that purchase probability can decrease with object complexity, measured by the number of attributes.

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