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Edward J. Fox

A growing body of research suggests that people in developed countries face too many choices, choices they would be better off avoiding. Yet people continue to find choice inherently attractive and are drawn to stores that offer more product alternatives from which to choose. This chapter reviews evidence that people seek, construct, and preserve choices when shopping for and consuming products. Uncertainty about their future preferences leads people to prefer flexibility as a rational hedge. As a result, consumers do not simply choose their favorite products. The author explores the dynamics of three different choice levels. First, he shows that store choice requires anticipation of subsequent product choices – this is well understood and non-controversial. He further shows that product choices made in-store require anticipation of how those products will be consumed at home – this is less well understood as the literature evolves. Finally, he presents evidence that consumption choices themselves require anticipation of future consumption choices, which will be made from the products that remain in inventory.