Centrality preferences in choices among similar options

  • Shaw J
  • Bergen J
  • Brown C
 et al. 
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Three explanations were explored for the finding that people prefer the middle option rather than the extremes when choosing from an array of similar options. In Study 1, 68% chose the middle item from a set of three highlighters and three surveys, whereas 32% chose an item from either end, p < .0001. In Study 2, 71% selected the middle chair from a row of three chairs that were either all empty, or had a backpack occupying either one of the two end chairs, p < .0001. These results support a minimal mental effort principle rather than a preference for symmetry rule. In Study 3, 54.2% recalled more graphic items from the center poster of a 3-poster collage, whereas 31.3% and 14.5% recalled more items from the left and right posters, respectively, p < .004. These findings lend additional support to a focus of attention explanation.

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  • Jerry I. Shaw

  • Jon E. Bergen

  • Chad A. Brown

  • Maureen E. Gallagher

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