Why we prefer the smaller or the lesser alternative


Less-is-better Effect

, explained.

What is the Less-is-better Effect?

The Less-is-better Effect is the tendency to prefer the smaller or the lesser alternative when choosing individually, but not when evaluating together.


In 1998, Christopher Hsee performed many studies that have shown that people tend to choose the “lesser” option when given the choice separately, but when the choice was given in joint, people choose the contrary. “Less-is-better” can be explained because when analysing an option separately people tend to focus on the easy attributes to evaluate instead of more important attributes.


One of his experiment was to ask the participants to suggest how much they would pay for a particular set of dishes. The first set had 40 pieces with 9 broken and the second set had 24 pieces all intact. When analysed separately a greater majority of participants were willing to pay more for the second option, when analysed side by side, the majority of the participants went for the first option recollecting that even if there were 9 broken pieces, there were still 31 pieces intact versus 24 in the second option.