Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Options?

The world we live in might be better off if we had less choices. Imaging stepping into a Home Depot store, to buy two types of screwdrivers. Or when you checkout a Dell website, there were just three types of laptops in just one color or Ice Cream on came in 3 flavors – me

One of the core principles of behavioral economics is a concept called “choice conflict,” whereby people become less likely to choose as the number of options they face increases. What’s tricky, of course, is that people are often attracted to wide selections of items and services. In one of the more well-known experiments in all of behavioral economics, conducted by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, grocery store shoppers randomly encountered a jelly-tasting table offering one of two selection sets: six kinds of jam, across the taste and price spectrum; or 24 jars, equally diversified. Although shoppers were 40% more likely to stop at the table with 24 varieties on display, those who stopped when there were only six jellies to taste were 10 times more likely to actually buy a jar!
The lesson here, more often than not, is that we think we want many options in life, but what we really desire is the illusion of choice and a trusted screener—someone (friend, relative, colleague or adviser) or something (an affinity group like AARP or an unbiased evaluator like Consumer Reports) to narrow our choices and help us choose. Not only is there good reason to think that fewer choices will simplify our lives, there’s also considerable evidence to suggest we’ll be happier for the simplicity.

As we detailed in our book, Iyengar and Lepper conducted another shopping experiment, setting up a chocolate-tasting booth that alternated between six options and 30. After making their choice, shoppers were then asked to rate their satisfaction level on a scale of 1 to 10. The result: Those who picked from the smaller selection of chocolates were nearly 15% happier with their choice. With six choices, you can only imagine a few ways that your decision to pick one chocolate over the others might have been “wrong.” But with 30 options, you’re left thinking that however much you like the chocolate you chose, there are 29 possible ways you might have chosen better.

*Originally written by Gary Belsky & Tom Gilovich.
*For undo-ordinary marketing strategic needs,  Also a Founders Under 40 Group partner.

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