Short Communication

Animal Cognition

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 1019-1022

First online:

Suboptimal choice by dogs: when less is better than more

  • Kristina F. PattisonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Kentucky
  • , Thomas R. ZentallAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Kentucky Email author 

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The less is more effect, an example of an affect heuristic, can be shown in humans when they give greater value to a set of six baseball cards in perfect condition, than to the same set of six perfect cards together with three additional cards each with some value but in fair condition. A similar effect has been reported in monkeys which will eat both grapes and cucumbers but prefer grapes, when they prefer a single grape over a single grape plus a slice of cucumber. In the present experiment, we tested the less is more effect with a nonprimate but social species, dogs. We used dogs that would eat a slice of carrot and a slice of cheese but preferred the cheese. When we then gave them a choice between a slice of cheese and a slice of cheese plus a slice of carrot, most dogs preferred the single slice of cheese. Thus, the less is more effect appears to occur in several species.


Affect heuristic Less is more Incentive motivation Value Choice Dogs