New research shows that consumers are happier with their choices if they have "closure" after they make a decision, providing implications for both marketers and dieters.
Three academics from the London Business School conducted four studies, one of which asked participants to choose a piece of chocolate from a tray. After participants made a selection, some were asked to place a transparent lid on the remaining chocolates. Those participants reported greater satisfaction with their decision.
"In daily life, people make difficult decisions, whether it's choosing a life partner or a career path. People find it very difficult," said Yangjie Gu, one of the study's authors and a Ph.D. candidate studying marketing at the London Business School.
She added that consumer decision-making is also a struggle, whether it's buying a computer or a car.
Gu wanted to find a "strategy to help people to be happier about their choices in difficult decisions."
"They can concentrate on a chosen option and stop focusing on foregone option. Therefore they will be happier about their decision outcome," which Gu calls "choice closure."
The study, which will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research in August, posits that the physical act of closure can unconsciously signal to oneself that one's decision process is complete, "and the resulting decision outcome should not be any longer compared with the options that have been rejected."
David Faro, the study's co-author and an assistant professor of marketing at the London Business School, proposes that choice closure is distinguished from forgetting about the foregone options.
"The lid, for instance, is transparent. It's not that we make you put a cover on what you have forgone, you forget about it, and therefore you focus on what you chose," he said. "It's not really like that. You can still see whatever you didn't pick. But the mere act of closing triggers the idea that I'm finished with it. It's not out of sight, out of mind."
The researchers also asked participants to choose from a menu item, then asked only some to close the menu after they made their selection, which yielded similar results. People who closed the menu were happier with their selections than those who kept the menu open.
Faro, Gu and the paper's other author, associate professor of marketing at the London Business School Simona Botti, are researching other ways people can reach choice closure. They are looking at online shopping site designs, which clearly distinguish items a shopper has forgone in light of their purchase.
Faro said their research has implications for those trying to control what they eat, for example. With closure, they may feel more satisfied with the food they eat so they won"t reach for something else.
"The bigger picture of our study is to want to give marketers or retailers a general idea, even some subtle cues that can help consumers experience choice closure," Gu said. "Our findings are not prescriptive. Small act of closure can help consumers be happier about their choices."