When More Is More

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Science  18 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6058, pp. 910-911
DOI: 10.1126/science.1214777

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Every day humans face choices, whether shopping for coffee beans or voting for a representative. Economists usually assume that we are rational agents who consistently choose options with the greatest utility. Yet, there are numerous departures from rational choice. People often justify continued investment in an unprofitable option because they have already invested in it (1), or switch their preference for one of two products when a third, less attractive one is introduced (2). Similarly, people may prefer an option based on past experience rather than its physical properties (3). Another departure from rational choice is the “less-is-more” effect (4), where having less information leads to better choices than having more. On page 1000 of this issue, Freidin and Kacelnik (5) challenge this idea by showing that when starlings are faced with food choices, they show a less-is-more effect only when choice is simultaneous and not when it is sequential.