social sciences

Are you a maximizer or a satisficer?

Those of you who happened to be a part of the research I conducted for my bachelor thesis, might have filled in a survey related to maximizing. This was one of the important constructs for the hypotheses I came up with. But what exactly is maximizing and what are its implications? Maximizing is the tendency of going for the best option out there. This means that you will keep looking for newer and better options, despite having already found something that is “just good enough”. Whereas someone else might adopt a satisficing strategy, using this method, you will stop looking after having found a good enough option (Misuraca & Teuscher, 2013).

If you are a consumer who is always looking for better products, even if you have already found something you like, you might be a maximizer.

Whether you adopt maximizing or satisficing strategies has implications for several cognitive abilities and perceptions.

  • First of all, Misuraca et al 2013 found in one of their experiments that maximizers and satisficers have different perceptions of time. Those who want to skim through all of the available options (maximizers), seem to underestimate the time that they spend checking out all options. Whereas satisficers overestimated their used time! In conclusion, in a decision-making task, maximizers will end up processing more information.
  • But it is also interesting to look at other constructs that might be correlated with maximizing. A team of researchers looked at regret, neuroticism, indecisiveness, avoidance, neuroticism, and life satisfaction. They found that maximizers are just as happy as satisficers! The only difference, according to them, was that maximers are more likely to experience regret (Diab, Gillespie, & Highhouse, 2008). Here you could reason that after having made a decision, maximizers will still be on the lookout for better options. Therefore the chances of experiencing regret are much greater.
  • Different research has indicated that maximizers tend to be more future orientated. Thus they might also be more likely to strive for achieving higher goals in order to create a better future for themselves. Another finding from the same study covered the hypothesis that maximizers are just better numerically. Their capacity to understand numerical information might be better because they are often involved in compromising to get the best available option (Misuraca, Teuscher, & Carmeci, 2015).
  • Chang, et al (2011) found that maximizing is related to perfectionism.
  • Another fascinating article looked at maximizers as sports fans. What they found is that maximizers identified more strongly with unsuccessful sports teams. In the article there doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation as to why this could be the case. They further explain that maximizers are more engaged with their team and buy more tickets and attend more games (Norris, Wann, & Zapalac, 2015).
  • But maximizing can also have negative implications. For example, in a World Cup betting experiment, maximizers were overconfident and worse in betting than satisficers (Schwartz, et al 2002).
  • Lai, L. (2011) found that maximizers tended to be less loyal consumers, they are more likely to switch to a different provider.

These are just a fraction of the findings on the implications of maximizing, and a lot of research still needs to be done on this decision-making strategy. From a seller’s perspective, it could be interesting to incorporate this into marketing campaigns. By ensuring maximizers that they have found the best possible option or deal, it could be easier to persuade them to buy your product. And from the perspective of a maximizer, it could be beneficial to know that you have these tendencies and are aware of where your regret is coming from when you have bought a certain product. And if there are any detrimental outcomes to adopting a maximizing strategy, mental health care practitioners should also be aware of this implications. For example, if there is a correlation between shopping addictions and/or materialism and maximizing.


Chang, E. C., Lin, N. J., Herringshaw, A. J., Sanna, L. J., Fabian, C. G., Perera, M. J., & Marchenko, V. V. (2011). Understanding the link between perfectionism and adjustment in college students: Examining the role of maximizing. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(7), 1074-1078.

Diab, D. L., Gillespie, M. A., & Highhouse, S. (2008). Are maximizers really unhappy? The measurement of maximizing tendency. Judgment and Decision Making, 3(5), 364.

Lai, L. (2011). Maximizing and customer loyalty: Are maximizers less loyal?.Judgment and Decision Making, 6(4), 307.

Misuraca, R., & Teuscher, U. (2013). Time flies when you maximize—Maximizers and satisficers perceive time differently when making decisions.Acta psychologica, 143(2), 176-180.

Misuraca, R., Teuscher, U., & Carmeci, F. A. (2015). Who are maximizers? Future oriented and highly numerate individuals. International Journal of Psychology.

Norris, J. I., Wann, D. L., & Zapalac, R. K. (2015). Sport fan maximizing: following the best team or being the best fan?. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 32(3), 157-166.

Schwartz, B., Ward, A., Monterosso, J., Lyubomirsky, S., White, K., & Lehman, D. R. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: happiness is a matter of choice. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(5), 1178.

Photo by woodlywonderworks

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