Tag Archives: paradox-of-choice

How Different Cultures Define Choice

In her book The Art of Choosing, psychologist Sheena Iyengar—the experimenter who conducted the original studies leading to the paradox of choice theory—looks at the cultural differences in the definition and acceptance of choice.

Take a mundane question: Do you choose to brush your teeth in the morning? Or do you just do it? Can a habit or custom be a choice? When Iyengar asked Japanese and American college students in Kyoto to record all the choices they made in a day, the Americans included things like brushing their teeth and hitting the snooze button. The Japanese didn’t consider those actions to be choices. The two groups lived similar lives. But they defined them differently.

In a review of the book, Iyengar is quoted as saying “the optimal amount of choice lies somewhere in between infinity and very little, and that optimum depends on context and culture”. I’ve posted before on how we may be overestimating the paradox of choice theory.

via Mind Hacks

Influencing Behaviour Online

Ignoring, for a moment, the rather unsound and outmoded neuroscience propounded in the introduction, these tips for extending influence online and persuading your visitors are worth a few minutes:

  1. Show ratings and reviews by other users (for action through social validation).
  2. Provide instant gratification and a quick fix.
  3. Put the most important action to be done first.
  4. Use the illusion of scarcity (previously).
  5. Build reciprocity by giving away something for free.
  6. Learn to use food, sex and danger in an advertising context.
  7. Limit the choices available and promote bundles (noted in this list with the paradox of choice/too-much-choice effect theory firmly in mind: while the advice is solid, the paradox of choice theory is overestimated).
  8. Speak to your visitor by using the word ‘You’ (personalisation).
  9. Get your visitors to make a (small) commitment. Preferably a public one.
  10. Use images that demonstrate similarity and attractiveness.
  11. Be a master at telling stories.

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.