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Purchase decision: does too much choice leave us unhappy?

Yun-Chia Tang (National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan and Department of International Business, Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan)
Yi-Ching Hsieh (Department of Information Management, National Central University, Jhongli, Taiwan)
Hung-Chang Chiu (Institute of Technology Management, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 11 July 2017




The purpose of this study is to determine how and when choice variety influences consumers’ willingness to purchase, according to a personal emotion perspective. The choice paradox indicates that although having many choices can be beneficial, it can also cause customer decision paralysis and unhappiness. This article proposes that the desire and motivation to process information vary from person to person, and emotional factors are relevant.


With a 2 × 2 experimental design, this study examines the influence of the interaction of choice variety with need for cognition (NFC) on positive and negative emotions, and then tests the mediating effects on purchase intentions. The sample includes 214 college students, assigned randomly to self-assessment questionnaires.


Both high NFC respondents in the high variety condition and low NFC respondents in the low variety condition exhibit more positive emotions than low NFC respondents in the high variety condition but not more than high NFC respondents in the low variety condition. Positive (negative) emotions increase (decrease) consumers’ purchase intentions.

Research limitations/implications

The experiment was conducted in a virtual store, which may not match real-life store environments or reflect participants’ actual purchase behaviours, so additional research should consider the influence of involvement further.

Practical implications

The results offer suggestions for developing more effective communication with emotions, increasing involvement to maintain consumers’ positive emotions and relieve their confusion, and managing product variety.


This article meets the identified need to study how choice variety influences consumers’ willingness to purchase from a personal emotion perspective.



Tang, Y.-C., Hsieh, Y.-C. and Chiu, H.-C. (2017), "Purchase decision: does too much choice leave us unhappy?", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51 No. 7/8, pp. 1248-1265.



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