I first saw Barry Schwartz’s Ted Talk on the Paradox of Choice and was really intrigued with the idea that too many choices can be debilitating and decrease our happiness. But yet I could relate to what he was talking about. How many times have you left a store without buying anything because you just could not make a decision of which one to buy? Or thought I just don’t have the time to think about this today? Or bought something only to be unhappy later about your choice? Well you are not alone and this may help you understand why.
Sheena Iyengar (Columbia University) and Mark Lepper (Stanford University) conducted studies testing the notion that the more choices we have, the better it is. “Findings from 3 experimental studies starkly challenge this implicit assumption that having more choices is necessarily more intrinsically motivating than having fewer. These experiments, which were conducted in both field and laboratory settings, show that people are more likely to purchase gourmet jams or chocolates when offered a limited array of 6 choices rather than a more extensive array of 24 or 30 choices. Moreover, participants actually reported greater subsequent satisfaction with their selections when their original set of options had been limited.”
What Barry says in his book “Paradox of Choice” is that ” a majority of people want more control over the details of their lives, but a majority of people also want to simplify their lives. There you have it—the paradox of our times. As evidence of this conflicted desire, it turns out that many people, though happy about the availability of telephone choices or electric choices, don’t really make them. They stick with what they already have without even investigating alternatives”.
Perhaps what we really like is the idea of being able to choose between so many options and whether or not we put this idea into practice is irrelevant. It is the idea that is important.
Let me know your thoughts…
And if you like this Mind Trip, check out Mind Trip of the Week #57: Don’t Think about It, which talks about how our unconscious minds are very helpful in making difficult decisions.