When Knowledge Is Demotivating: Subjective Knowledge and Choice Overload

Liat Hadar*, Sanjay Sood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


People find it appealing to have more options to choose from, but the provision of choice often leads to adverse consequences for decision makers’ motivation, satisfaction, and willingness to act. We propose that the effect of the number of choice options on willingness to purchase is moderated by people’s subjective knowledge (SK). The results of three studies provide converging evidence that, paradoxically, people who feel unknowledgeable (low-SK people) in a certain domain are especially willing to purchase when more choice options are available, which is consistent with the notion of “more is better.” This pattern is reversed for people who feel knowledgeable (high-SK people), which is consistent with prior evidence for choice overload. We also show that this pattern is influenced by the informativeness of the features of the available choice options and that subjective knowledge mediates this effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1739-1747
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 27 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • choice overload
  • choice-set size
  • subjective knowledge


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