Centrality preferences in choices among similar options

J Gen Psychol. 2000 Apr;127(2):157-64. doi: 10.1080/00221300009598575.


Three explanations were explored for the finding that people prefer the middle option rather than the extremes when choosing from an array of similar options. In Study 1, 68% chose the middle item from a set of three highlighters and three surveys, whereas 32% chose an item from either end, p < .0001. In Study 2, 71% selected the middle chair from a row of three chairs that were either all empty, or had a backpack occupying either one of the two end chairs, p < .0001. These results support a minimal mental effort principle rather than a preference for symmetry rule. In Study 3, 54.2% recalled more graphic items from the center poster of a 3-poster collage, whereas 31.3% and 14.5% recalled more items from the left and right posters, respectively, p < .004. These findings lend additional support to a focus of attention explanation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall