Overestimating the Paradox of Choice

Are we over­es­tim­at­ing the reach of the ‘too-much-choice effect’—the phe­nomen­on first noted by Iyengar and Lep­per (2000) [pdf] and pop­ular­ised by Barry Schwartz as the para­dox of choice?

The the­ory states that, con­trary to tra­di­tion­al eco­nom­ic prin­ciples, the more choice con­sumers have the less sat­is­fied and less likely to decide they are. How­ever, this from the abstract of a recent paper show­ing that we may be giv­ing this the­ory too much cre­dence: 

Core the­or­ies in eco­nom­ics, psy­cho­logy ‚and mar­ket­ing sug­gest that decision makers bene­fit from hav­ing more choice. In con­trast, accord­ing to the too-much-choice effect, hav­ing too many options to choose from may ulti­mately decrease the motiv­a­tion to choose and the sat­is­fac­tion with the chosen option. To recon­cile these two pos­i­tions, we tested wheth­er there are spe­cif­ic con­di­tions in which the too-much-choice effect is more or less likely to occur. In three stud­ies with a total of 598 par­ti­cipants, we sys­tem­at­ic­ally invest­ig­ated the mod­er­at­ing impact of choice set sizes, option attract­ive­ness, and wheth­er par­ti­cipants had to jus­ti­fy their choices. […] Over­all, only choice jus­ti­fic­a­tion proved to be an effect­ive mod­er­at­or, call­ing the extent of the too-much-choice effect into ques­tion.

2 thoughts on “Overestimating the Paradox of Choice

  1. Devan

    Seems to me the key is here: “[W]e found no too-much-choice effect in Ger­many or the United States except when indi­vidu­als needed to jus­ti­fy their choice” (246–7).

    But that’s just the thing: In life, we almost always have to jus­ti­fy our choices in one way or anoth­er; we almost nev­er have the lux­ury of know­ing that the only reper­cus­sions of our choices are the out­comes of some study.

  2. Pingback: How to influence (online) behaviour | THESCRAPBOOK

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