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No.26 The Less is Better Effect

The Less is Better Effect is a preference reversal that occurs when the lesser or smaller alternative is preferred when evaluated separately, but not together.

When products are evaluated separately rather than jointly, shoppers focus less on attributes that are important and are influenced more by attributes that are easy to evaluate.

One study of the Less is Better Effect presented participants with two dinner set options. Option A included 40 pieces, nine of which were broken. Option B included 24 pieces, all of which were intact. Option A was superior, as it included 31 intact pieces.

When evaluated separately, individuals were willing to pay a higher price for set B. In a joint evaluation of both options, on the other hand, Option A resulted in higher willingness to pay (Hsee, 1998). To avoid the changing mindsets of shppers, abide by the Less is Better Effect and reduce options.

In-store, it is important to understand the context in which shoppers evaluate your brand:

  1. Choice management – quite simply, shoppers have too much choice. As studies have shown, reducing choice often increases sales - Google the Sheena Iyengar Jam study.
  2. Bricks not walls – in large, hard to browse categories, split information into more manageable chunks. The Less is Better Effect means that Food to Go as a category should become separate displays of savoury, sweet and drink items.
  3. The default option – where Less is Better isn't a viable approach, aa good way to help shoppers choose which option to buy is to have a clearly labelled ‘default’ option (a safe bet and all-round answer to the needs the category fulfils).

Choice can no longer be used to justify a marketing strategy in and of itself. Less is Better for the customer and for the retailer.

About Phillip Adcock

My name is Phillip Adcock: I have more than 30 years of human behavioural research and analysis, and have developed a unique ability to identify what it is that makes people psychologically and physiologically 'tick'.

Would you like to know more about how shoppers and consumers think? Download my FREE guide now. Alternatively, check out, where there are more FREE downloads available there. Or why not simply email me with what's on your mind?

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Phillip Adcock
Psychology & Behaviour
Change Consultant

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