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 responses to “Overestimating the Paradox of Choice”

  1. 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. […] 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). […]