Acceptance and Elimination Procedures in Choice: Non-Complementarity and the Role of Implied Status Quo

Ilan Yaniv & Yaacov Schul

The present research contrasts two seemingly complementary decision strategies: acceptance and elimination. In acceptance, a choice set is created by including suitable alternatives from an initial set of alternatives, whereas in elimination it is created by removing inappropriate alternatives from that same initial set. The research used realistic career decision-making scenarios and presented to respondents sets of alternatives that varied in their pre-experimental strength values. Whereas complementarity of acceptance and elimination is implied by three standard (normative) assumptions of decision theory, we find a systematic discrepancy between the outcomes of these procedures: choice sets were larger in elimination than in acceptance. This acceptance/elimination discrepancy is directly tied to sub-complementarity. The central tenet of the theoretical framework developed here is that acceptance and elimination procedures imply different types of status quo for the alternatives, thereby invoking a different selection criterion for each procedure. A central prediction of the dual-criterion framework is the "middling" alternatives should be most susceptible to the type of procedure used. The present studies focus on this prediction which is substantiated by the results showing that "middling" alternatives yield the greatest discrepancy between acceptance and elimination. The implications of this model and findings for various research domains are discussed.

February, 2000
Published in: 
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 82 (2000), 293-313