Simultaneous Choice

Simultaneous Choice Definition

Simultaneous ChoiceThe term simultaneous choice is mostly used in contrast to sequential choice. Both terms refer to the selection of a series of items for subsequent consumption, for example, when selecting a set of three soft drinks to be consumed one per day during the next three days. Simultaneous choice is the choice of several items ahead of time (e.g., selecting all three soft drinks before or on the first day of consumption) whereas sequential choice refers to single decisions, where each item is chosen at the time of its employment (e.g., selecting each of the three soft drinks on the day of its consumption).

Simultaneous Choice Explanation and Details

Simultaneous and sequential choice derive from the area of consumer research. Decision outcomes from simultaneous choice and sequential choice tend to differ because of different decision strategies. People choose a greater variety of things when making simultaneous choices rather than sequential choices. For example, a person who is consuming one yogurt daily is more likely to select a greater variety of flavors when buying yogurts for the next week within one shopping trip than when going shopping daily and buying only one yogurt for immediate consumption each day.

Several reasons for this seeking of greater variety in simultaneous choice have been discussed and experimentally tested. When making a simultaneous choice a person tends to overpredict satiation with one item (e.g., a particular yogurt flavor) because of an underestimation of the time interval from one consumption period to the other. The result is the selection of a greater variety of items. In addition, simultaneous choice requires the prediction of future preferences, which are prone to be uncertain. For example, a person’s taste might change over time. It seems less likely that a person’s taste will change for each variation, so selecting a variety of items is less risky than choosing the same item for all consumption periods. Selecting a series of items during simultaneous choice also requires more time and effort than selecting one item at a time. Determining the best item for each of the consumption occasions within a simultaneous choice is a time consuming and cognitively demanding task. Consequently, selecting a greater variety of items can be a means of simplifying the decision task.

Research examining whether simultaneous or sequential choice is better for the consumer in liking and objective value of items yields no definite results. A simultaneous choice is possibly a better strategy for a simultaneous experience (e.g., choosing a set of interdependent items such as furniture for an apartment) whereas a sequential choice seems to be best for sequential experience (e.g., choosing a set of independent items such as different music compact discs).

Some items that have been used in simultaneous choice experiments include compact disk tracks, gambles, groceries, movies, and snacks.


  • Simonson, I. (1990). The effect of purchase quantity and timing on variety-seeking behavior. Journal of Marketing Research, 27, 150-162.