I’ve been consuming some information about choice, or more accurately, about the proliferation of choice.
- Harvard Business Review: More Isn’t Always Better
- The Economist: The Tyranny of Choice - You Choose
- TED: Choosing What to Choose
- TED: On the Art of Choosing
- Radiolab: Choice
It turns out, too much choice is a bad thing. It can lead to choice paralysis, where fear of a bad choice makes you are unable to make a choice, even to your detriment. It can lead to lower satisfaction, where you imagine a better possibility, even when you have make the best possible choice.
The premise, demonstrated repeatedly, is that some choice is good. The nearly unlimited choice we have today is bad. We simply are not equipped to evaluate so many possibilities. This is believed to contribute to increasing depression and suicide in societies. From a business perspective, reducing consumer choices can increase sales. I’ve found myself overwhelmed at Carrefour with so much choice that in most cases, I leave with almost nothing. I’ve found myself unable to find a place to eat even while surrounded by restaurants. These have been frustrating times.
But we cannot escape our surroundings and so it is strange that in all of the discussions, there is no discussion or mention of studies on how to handle the boundless opportunities. I can choose to go to a smaller grocery store, but that doesn’t help me when I want to buy a new cell phone. It doesn’t help me when I want to plan a vacation and the globe is a possibility.
There was however, one brief mention in Radiolab that struck me as interesting. With two people picking apples, one picked based on a single attribute, a strange name. The other evaluated and compared, eventually selecting one. Turns out, the strangely named one was agreed to taste better (and didn’t have an embeded worm). Disregarding the end result, it seems to me that this single attribute choice is perhaps a good strategy to deal with too many options. It avoids the comparison, evaluation, deliberation.
That strategy works well for an apple, for which there is perhaps only one attribute of concern: taste. But what about a cell phone. I think maybe there is a workable extension. Decide what you must have. Does it have to have two cameras, large touch screen, etc to narrow down your list. Then pick one attribute to make your decision. It might be price, size, beauty, whatever, and choose. I see flaws in this too - what if you hate something, and regret it. But from their studies, that seems to happen anyway. Or maybe that flaw is just great lifelong brainwashing.</p></column>