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How much variety we want varies by the time of day, according to new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.
Professor Jordan Etkin and her colleagues found the circadian rhythms that guide the body's daily cycle cause us to desire less variety in the morning – in the food we eat, the activities we like and even the colors we choose – but more as the day wears on.
Thing - Breakfast - Day - Cereal - Thought
"Most of us are perfectly fine with eating the same thing for breakfast every day, like cereal, but the thought of eating the same rotisserie chicken for dinner every day is just terrible," said Kelley Gullo, a Fuqua Ph.D. student and the study's lead author. "We wanted to test this apparent difference, and to understand why it exists."
Does Time of Day Affect Variety Seeking? is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research. Etkin and Gullo worked with Bryan Bollinger, also of Fuqua, and Jonah Berger of the Wharton School.
Findings - Light - Consumers - Firms - Offerings
The findings shed light on how consumers shop, and can help firms tailor offerings to suit them based on the time of day.
The researchers conducted four studies. They reviewed data from 1.1 million reward card customers at a grocery store in California over two years. Tracking the card usage allowed the researchers to see how the same customers shopped differently at different times of day.
People - Variety - Categories - Flavors - Yoghurt
They found people chose significantly more variety within single categories – more different flavors of yoghurt, for example – when they shopped later in the day.
The other studies moved beyond food, realizing there could be other reasons people might want a simple breakfast.
Norms - Breakfast - Meal - Fun - Etkin
"There are certain norms that hold breakfast as more of a functional meal and less fun," Etkin said. "You might be more motivated just to get out of the door, rather than savoring your breakfast. Of course...
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