1-Minute Psychology: Is more always merrier?
Updated: Feb 4, 2021
We’ve all come across times where we need to make a choice. From picking the outfit we’re going to wear to school to making life-changing decisions, we make decisions in our everyday lives. The psychology of choice explores why we (sub)consciously make the decisions we make and what motivates those decisions.
When making choices, we would think that having a variety of choices would make the decision-making process better and easier for us. However, recent research suggests that our ability to make decisions become easier when we are presented with fewer options. When people are faced with different choices that are similar to one another, such as brand, color, or taste, people tend to have a difficult time choosing. Even after making a choice, we don't feel as satisfied because our mind drifts to the other decisions we could've made.
This finding was first presented in 2000 by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper. In their iconic experiment, they went into a grocery store and set up a booth of jam samples, and every few hours, they would change the selection of jams from 24 to 6. When there were 24 jams, 60% of customers would stop to get a sample, but only 3% of these customers would actually end up buying a jar. On the other hand, when there were 6 jams on display, 40% stopped by. Of these people, 30% bought a jar of jam!
The variety of choices were able to attract more attention, but in the end, fewer choices got them to purchase the jams.