In a study of jam, consumers were more likely to buy when offered 6 jams (40%) instead of 24 jams (3%). Consumers also reported greater buying satisfaction.
When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. As the number of available choices increases, as it has in our consumer culture, the autonomy and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.
And so then, a quote from Barry Schwartz’s seminal book The Paradox of Choice perfectly sets the scene of this thought.
But stepping aside from the jam experiment for a moment, it’s important to recognise the difference between choice and complexity. Consider choosing between jams on the one hand, and making a decision about important long-term investment options on the other. There is a lot more complexity involved in the latter, and the risk of putting off or not carrying out such a decision is significantly higher to a person’s wellbeing than walking out of the shop without a chosen jar of jam.
When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing? PDF (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000)
The Paradox of Choice Book (Schwartz, 2005)
Doing Better but Feeling Worse: The Paradox of Choice PDF (Schwartz & Ward, 2012)
Barry Schwartz’ TED talk on The Paradox of Choice 20m video (Schwartz, 2005)