Eternal Quest for the Best: Sequential (vs. Simultaneous) Option Presentation Undermines Choice Commitment
A series of laboratory and field experiments reveals a detrimental effect of presenting options sequentially (one at a time) versus simultaneously (all at once) on choosers’ satisfaction with and commitment to their chosen option. This is because choosers presented with their options simultaneously tend to remain focused on the current set of options, comparing them among each other; whereas choosers presented with their options sequentially tend to imagine a better option, hoping it will become available. This feeling of hope undermines how choosers subsequently experience their selected option, resulting in lower satisfaction and commitment levels. Sequential choosers consequently exhibit lower outcome satisfaction regardless of which option they choose, whether sequentially passed-up options remain available, and whether they have equivalent option information to simultaneous choosers. Thus, enjoying the most satisfaction from one’s choice might require being willing to give up the eternal quest for the best.