Special Session Summary New Insights Into Variety Seeking

Michal Strahilevitz, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Daniel Read, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
[ to cite ]:
Michal Strahilevitz and Daniel Read (1996) ,"Special Session Summary New Insights Into Variety Seeking", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 271.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, 1996      Page 271



Michal Strahilevitz, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Daniel Read, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This session offered a diverse range of papers focusing on the contexts in which variety seeking will be more likely as well as some of the possible underlying mechanisms responsible for people's preferences with regards to thedegree of variety they would find optimal.

The first paper, by Cynthia Huffman and Barbara Kahn, examines the implications to marketers of the fact that individuals are motivated to maintain an optimal stimulation level (OSL). The authors suggest that when marketers offer too much variety, consumers may become so frustrated that they will be unwilling to try new products. The research explores the ways that marketers can present their arrays of options so that the consumer being targeted will be more satisfied by the variety of alternatives available, rather than more confused. The results indicate that the optimal level of variety may depend on the degree customers are aware of their own preferences. The findings also demonstrate that if marketers unobtrusively elicit their customer's preferences, and then offer them the alternatives that they really want, these customers will be much more willing to consume variety.

The second paper, by Michal Strahilevitz, explores the possibility that similar to "sensory specific satiation," individuals may exhibit "cause specific satiation." Both hypothetical contribution decisions and real choices involving real money were used. The results indicate that, even in the absence of information seeking and uncertainty regarding future tastes, individuals still tend to seek variety. The results also demonstrate that both the amount of money available and the time elapsed between contributions can affect allocation preferences when choosing among multiple charities. Also presented were results which suggest that in selecting a "portfolio" of causes to contribute to, many individuals will look for variety with a theme (i.e., sponsoring only females, but from a variety of ethnic backgrounds). As a whole, the results suggest that there may be some sort of intrinsic pay-off from simply choosing variety as opposed to consuming variety.

The final paper, by Daniel Read, Shobana Kalyanaraman, and George Loewenstein, explores various motives underlying variety seeking behavior. The main motives investigated were information seeking, diversification and what they refer to as "virtuous" variety seeking. The authors demonstrate that "choice bracketing," or the making of choices in combination or separately, can determine which motives will operate when choices are made. Their results indicate that people are more likely to consider the virtues of a diverse portfolio when choices are bracketed together. They also demonstrated that individuals are also more likely to experiment in order to find out what other alternatives might be available when choices are bracketed together. Finally, their results indicate that individuals are more likely to select a virtuous but less enjoyable alternative (e.g., Renting Schindler's List as opposed to Speed) when choices were bracketed together.

At the closing of the session, Leigh McAlister skillfully led a stimulating discussion where many captivating ideas for future research were raised. The audience departed appearing content that they had selected this session amongst the variety of other attractive alternatives available.