Single-Option Aversion

Single-Option Aversion

Single-option aversion describes the way in which consumers are reluctant to pick an option – even one that they like – when no others are being offered. If you are presented with only one option, you will consider choosing this option to be potentially ill-informed or hasty. In other words, you are likely to ask yourself if it wouldn’t be better to consider alternative options before deciding which one to buy, even if the single option available is already what you are looking for. This effect can lead to a product being chosen more often when competing alternatives are included in the choice set than when it is offered alone.

For example, if you walk into a store to buy a TV and there is only one model left, you are more likely to decide you’d prefer to look at other options too before making a purchase, even if the TV available seems to be a good product. Daniel Mochon demonstrated the Single-option Aversion with an experiment in which he offered the hypothetical purchase of a DVD player to participants. His study showed that just 9% of participants said they would buy the Sony model offered when it was the only option whereas the percentage went up to 32% when this same model was offered alongside a Philips model.

This principle is important for the consideration of product marketing and decisions about how many options you should present to your customers. It is better not to offer a too limited choice to your customers as this is likely to motivate them to look elsewhere for other options to which they can compare the products on offer, perhaps ultimately leading to a purchase made through a competitor instead. However, you don’t want to overwhelm them with options either as this can lead to indecision – as described in the “Paradox of Choice” principle – so it is important to carefully consider how you present your products and in what numbers and groupings.

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