The Mere Categorization Effect: How the Presence of Categories Increases Choosers' Perceptions of Assortment Variety and Outcome Satisfaction

Mogilner, Cassie; Rudnick, Tamar; Iyengar, Sheena Sethi

What is the effect of option categorization on choosers' satisfaction? A combination of field and laboratory experiments reveals that the mere presence of categories, irrespective of their content, positively influences the satisfaction of choosers who are unfamiliar with the choice domain. This "mere categorization effect" is driven by a greater number of categories signaling greater variety among the available options, which allows for a sense of self-determination from choosing. This effect, however, is attenuated for choosers who are familiar with the choice domain, who do not rely on the presence of categories to perceive the variety available.


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Journal of Consumer Research

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February 22, 2010