Short menus imply unhealthy eating choices; long menus, obviously, make you more finicky about what you eat! That's what American researchers have found.
Aner Sela from Stanford University, Jonah Berger from University of Pennsylvania and Wendy Liu from UCLA looked at the way consumers justify their choices.
"Because choosing from larger assortments is often more difficult, it leads people to select options that are easier to justify," wrote the authors.
"Virtuous and utilitarian necessities are generally easier to justify than indulgences. Consequently, people faced with a larger menu might be more likely to take the garden salad over the pepperoni pizza or the reduced-fat strawberry ice cream over the double chocolate mocha crunch," they added.
For the study, the researchers asked participants to choose from pictures of ice cream flavors, some low fat and others regular.
The group that chose from a larger assortment chose low-fat ice cream more often.
Similarly, when participants could help themselves to trays of cookies and fruit, more people took fruit from a larger assortment than from a smaller assortment (76 percent vs. 55 percent).
"While healthier or more virtuous options tend to be easier to justify in general, situational factors can provide accessible justifications to indulge," write the authors.
"For example, exerting a great deal of effort on a math test can provide people with an accessible 'excuse' to reward themselves. Similarly, people who commit to a volunteering activity may feel they have 'earned' the right to indulge...Thus, assortment size influences option choice, but the specific type of option people will choose will depend on accessible justifications."
The study appears in Journal of Consumer Research: April 2009.