Circumstances dictate decision making, and choices between variety and monotony are no exception: People become more interested in trying, say, more popsicle flavors when they’re uncertain about their future, or when they’re making decisions in groups.
A study in the upcoming December issue of the Journal of Consumer Research found that there’s another factor dictating people’s adventurousness. Consumers, concluded the study's authors, seek out more variety when a store sells products individually, versus in bulk. The researchers suspect that this might play into yet another psychological edge that Costco, with its humongous bundles of single products, has over its retail competition: Shoppers' predilection for large quantities of a single product is strong enough to make them buy more than if the products were sold individually.
In one experiment, researchers gave out sodas, letting subjects choose whether they wanted Cokes or Sprites. One group chose between the two sodas once, and then, once that decision was made, was faced with the same Coke-or-Sprite choice again. Another group was only making one choice between two-soda combinations (two Cokes, two Sprites, or one of each). In both experiments, subjects ended up with two sodas.