Decisions can be hard. We may be haunted by the path not taken. But the best way to feel better about the one choice we do make may be to put up a literal barrier to any of the other choices. In a recent study some participants had to choose a chocolate from a box holding a selection of 24 chocolates. Others picked from a box containing just six chocolates. Each box had a transparent lid. Some were told to just pick one and taste it. Others had to pick one, but close the lid again before tasting it. Then all participants were asked to rate their chocolate. Those who put a transparent lid back on the box immediately after choosing from the 24 chocolates enjoyed their candy more than those who lingered with the lid open—even though both groups could see the chocolates not chosen! What about the six-chocolate box? Closing the lid had no effect on chocolate rankings. The study is the Journal of Consumer Research (pdf). The researchers say other studies show that when we start with fewer options we don’t tend to ruminate on other choices, or even compare options. We simply like what we get. Just don’t put back any half-eaten chocolates. —Christie Nicholson [The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs. Visit ScientificAmerican.com for the latest in science, health and technology news.
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