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What Is The Paradox Of Choice Psychology

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Choice Is A Good Thing Right

The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz

Let us take you back to the grand old days of grocery shopping, when butter came weighed out in a scoop, the grocer knew your childrens names and your favourite cut of beef, and a brand was something you applied to a cows bum .

Limited choice made shopping a simpler experience in those days , but surely the huge array of brands, products and quantities available in todays supermarkets make shopping a more satisfying experience? After all, what brunette with frizzy hair and split ends could argue against a shampoo product made specifically to meet her needs?

The Paradox Of Choice 10 Years Later

Ten years have passed since the publication of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, a highly influential book written by the psychologist Barry Schwartz. If the title doesnt sound familiar, the idea behind Schwartzs argument should: Instead of increasing our sense of well-being, an abundance of choice is increasing our levels of anxiety, depression, and wasted time. Whether youre deliberating between breakfast cereals, TV shows, career paths, pension plans, or lifetime partners, the amount of options out there can be overwhelming. In modern America, however, the freedom to decide who you are and who youre going to be is mandatory.

While Schwartz doesnt claim he discovered the setbacks of excessive choice, The Paradox of Choice is perhaps our best articulation of the overall problem. In the book, for example, he explores the stress people feel when confronted with ample opportunity, and the regret that follows from choosing poorly . He also discusses our loss of presence , our raised expectations , and our tarnished sense of self that comes from comparing our choices with the choices of others . In sum, Schwartzs work poses a serious challenge to the notion that more choice brings about more freedom, and more freedom brings about more happiness. As the books subtitle implies, sometimes a lot is simply too much.

Lesson : Good Enough Is The Best Become A Satisficer

Wrong! Have you heard the saying: Only the best is good enough? This was LEGOs slogan in the 1930s. However, with modern day choice, it should actually be the other way around:

Only good enough is the best.

Why? Because trying to make the best choice will make you utterly miserable, due to the 2 points above.

Instead, try becoming what Schwartz calls a satisficer.

When you set out to buy new running shoes, come up with a list of criteria up front.

What qualities should your running shoes have? Which color? How much will you pay?

Once you have that, go out and start looking. Now you can put all potential choices in one of two buckets:

  • Fits your criteria.
  • Doesnt fit your criteria.
  • The moment you find a pair that belongs into the first bucket, you buy it.

    Thats it.

    The only way to get rid of the terror of choice is to artificially limit it. Just like people with good habits limit themselves by , you too can limit your choice by setting some rules.

    Trust me, youll be much happier for it.

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    What’s The Impact Of Choice On Consumer Purchasing And Ecommerce

    However, as previously demonstrated in our series of articles on digital psychology, the obvious answer isnt always the right one when it comes to human behaviour. Excessive choice has been shown in numerous studies to result in consumer dissatisfaction, due to our limited capacity for processing information. This leads us to adopt sub-optimal heuristics for decision-making, which may ultimately lead to demotivation and lack of action at the point of purchase, a lack of motivation in task completion, reduced task performance, dissatisfaction and post-choice regret.

    These negative reactions to a seemingly positive scenario have been termed by renowned American psychologist, Barry Schwartz, as a ‘Paradox of choice’ .

    In this post, we will investigate how this paradox was first discovered, how it affects ecommerce retailers, and how the paradoxs effects can be mitigated.

    When does too much choice occur, and is this too-much-choice effect reflected online as well as in offline consumer environments?

    If, as Barry Schwartz in his Tyranny of Choice paper states, ‘As the number of choices we face increase, the psychological benefits we derive start to level off Some of the negative effects of choice begin to appear and rather than level off, they accelerate. ‘, where is that point?

    George Miller’s Experiments on information processing

    This question was first addressed in 1956 by the wonderfully verbose George Miller .

    Herbert Simon’s views of ‘Maximisers’ and ‘Satisficers’

    Keep The Paradox Of Choice In Mind To Increase Conversions: Less Is More

    Why Giving Kids Choices Doesn

    Fewer options lead to more sales in grocery stores and higher participation in 401 plans, but does the same framework apply to digital experiences? The paradox of choice, paralysis analysis, and choice overload certainly influences how users navigate websites and apps.

    If youre willing to get rid of extraneous, redundant, and unnecessary options, youre likely to see more sales, lower costs, and a better user experience. Now lets look at some examples of companies in different industries that are benefitting from considering the paradox of choice in their UX.

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    • Aspirational membership schemes and belonging The category size bias provides a credible explanation for why we human beings tend to associate with large groups that are viewed favourably by society. Being part of a large and âdesirableâ social group can make others believe that we also possess the many qualities of its members. For small businesses, it suggests that forming or being a part of a consortium or large and high quality networking group can dramatically elevate your brand image.
    • Communicating category sizes to nudge effectively Highlighting the differences between the large and small categories is highly likely to enhance the effect of the Category Size Bias. For instance, for software companies, stating that there are 10 features in the premium version versus 4 in the free version will help nudge a decision towards the premium version

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  • The findings from this braingem can nudge better healthcare choices, encourage consumption of a given product, and lead to more confident consumer decisions.
  • Weâll spend or gamble more money on items put in larger categories.
  • When Reducing Options Increases Sales

    In defense of his thesis in The Paradox of Choice, Schwartz wrote a column for PBS that gave a few modern examples of increased sales that resulted from the restriction of buying options.

    One compelling example was for a large retailer of office supplies, which had reduced the number of options offered in its print catalog in many product categories.

    They did this not to increase sales based on psychological research but to save money on overhead . They actually assumed that the changes would reduce sales, but thats not what happened.

    Instead, the company found thatin every category in which the options were reducedsales increased drastically.

    Even can benefit from simplicity, as an HBR study noted, likely because of the cognitive ease in processing fluency:

    The single biggest driver of stickiness, by far, was decision simplicitythe ease with which consumers can gather trustworthy information about a product and confidently and efficiently weigh their purchase options. What consumers want from marketers is, simply, simplicity.

    There are also compelling studies suggesting that having too many choices can stand in the way of achieving goals.

    But what about online sales? Does having too many options really reduce conversions? Here are three examples from social media, email marketing, and SaaS pricing.

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    The Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less Barry Schwartz

    From the publisher:

    In the spirit of Alvin Tofflers Future Shock, a social critique of our obsession with choice, and how it contributes to anxiety, dissatisfaction and regret. This paperback includes a new P.S. section with author interviews, insights, features, suggested readings, and more.

    Whether were buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401, everyday decisionsboth big and smallhave become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.

    We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.

    Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Existing Marketing Materials

    The paradox of choice | Barry Schwartz
    • Do you have too many categories and subcategories for products on your web page? A website that appeals because of its simplicity and elegance is Los Angeles-based jeweler Bychari. Known for the signature V-O-T-E necklace worn by Michelle Obama, this website is a lesson on giving customers intriguing choices, not too many and not too much. Novelty is infused as new collections come online.
    • Does your webpage have too much information? Does it delay the customer from the two essential goals of a website: selling goods and building your customer base? You want substance in your content that is concise, clean and catchy, clearing as much friction from the purchase as possible.
    • Have you recently made an evaluation of your web pages and your social media platforms to make sure you arent overwhelming your customers? Knowing where your customers are in terms of where they want to interact with you and how often helps determine how much information to provide. Being selective about which platforms to be on might help you reach your customers in ways that matter more to them.
    • How clear are you about what your audience wants from your products and/or service? Researching how your customers speak about your product gives you the language you can adapt for your marketing campaigns. See how Angelus Direct takes language in their customers reviews and makes it part of their own presentation in FAQs and featured tutorial videos.

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    Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained

    Obviously, the answer to the question in my title is subject to debate. But what Id like to suggest here is that the farthest-reaching paradox about human nature and its powerful defense system is this: Most of us try to control life by protecting ourselves from it. Rather than going for itliving life as the indomitable adventure it iswe too often decide its better to be cautious, to hold ourselves back. Employing all sorts of personal prohibitions, we minimize risks by disciplining many of our natural impulses. And we demonstrate a strong tendency to resist change. Our self-protective stratagems, however unconscious, are all designed to shield us from failure and rejectionnot to mention, anxiety and fear, sorrow and grief, humiliation and shame.

    This inherent predisposition toward avoidance is even more likely if we experienced significant abuse in childhood. Having endured such painful experiences prompts us to develop a variety of defenses to safeguard a vulnerability which, back then, overwhelmed us. And thats truly unfortunate since as we grow older, were given all sorts of opportunitiesif we have the courage to take themto cultivate resources that can greatly reduce this earlier, so keenly felt vulnerability.

    Still, if in advance you determine you can accept, or adapt to, whatever result your action might lead to, youll experience more control than if you simply evaded the situation.

    So, in thatfinallyits your life to live, whats your choice?

    The Paradox Of Choice In Web Design: Simplicity Vs Abundance Of Choice

    Prof Sheen Iyengar of Colombia University is one of the worlds leading experts on the psychology of humans when it comes a choice.

    She conducted experiments early in her tenure that was groundbreaking. She set up a tasting table at a grocery store offering visitors a taste from an assortment of 24 different jams. 60% of the shoppers stopped by and took a taste. But then she set up a table with just 6 flavors. A lesser amount of 40% of shoppers stopped by and took a taste.

    But the kicker was that 30% of those who stopped the 6-choices table ended up making a purchase, vs. a measly 3% of those that stopped by at the table with the larger assortment.

    This study raised the hypothesis that the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory,Professor Iyengar said last year, but in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.

    Over the years, versions of the jam study have been conducted using all sorts of subjects, like chocolate and speed dating.

    Whats the point of this? While companies try to push a number of different products at customers and site visitors, however, research proves simple is better. When humans are confronted with too many choices, they will be unhappy with their selection or unable to make a choice. According to Hoa Loranger:

    The abundance of choice is often more limiting to the consumer than have a controlled number of choices which makes the decision and precision in the choice easier.

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    What Is Paradox Of Choice

    The paradox of choice is our inability to choose when presented with a lot of options, even though we like to have plenty of choices. The more to choose from, the harder the choice and the less satisfied you are with your choice. When choosing A over B, C and D, the potential loss of options causes this paradox. The effect of the paradox of choice can be felt when experiencing buyers remorse, choosing an academic discipline or even when finding your significant other.

    Back in the day, most people didnt have much freedom in choosing their life. Especially during industrialisation we ended up mass-producing products, thereby restricting people in their choice. By now, there are so many different products that the process of choosing often takes much more time and effort, thereby reducing our freedom. This is why its called the Paradox of Choice, often also reffered to as the choice paradox.

    What You Should Do

    The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.pdf

    If you are involved in the at your company, it is your job to understand the paradox of choice, and test for it.

    Think you might have too many different options? Try a split test where you take some away and see if that helps conversion rate. Consider simplifying the decision by combining features of one option with another, and limit the choices as much as possible.

    Think you have room to add new varieties but worried about the impact that might have? Again, you can test it out before you invest in the new development. Consumer research and onsite testing can help you determine if there is room to create new options that would sell.

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    The Paradox Of Choice: Why Complete Freedom Can Be Paralyzing

    5 min read

    Ever since I quit my day job as a data scientist a little over three months ago, Ive had the luxury of waking up each morning and getting to decide exactly how Id like to spend my day.

    This complete freedom over my time is the one thing that I craved most during my time in Corporate America. I hated being told what to work on, what schedule to follow, where to work, and whom to work with. Despite the cushy income, I felt trapped.

    Now that I have the freedom I craved, I can do whatever I want each day. However, one surprising realization Ive had is that complete freedom can actually be paralyzing at times.

    While I can spend my time doing productive things like working on projects I find meaningful, lifting weights, reading books, and meditating, its just as easy to spend my time binging on Netflix shows, watching pointless videos on YouTube, and eating snacks on the couch.

    Freedom from a day job means I get to choose how I spend my time. And while complete freedom might sound like a dream come true, it can actually be paralyzing at times. To understand why, we can turn to Barry Schwartz who wrote an entire book on this topic titled The Paradox of Choice.

    Paradox Of Choice: Why Less Is More

    Written by Evert Semeijn, PhD on 18/01/2018.

    Its Saturday evening and youre planning to have a romantic date with your Netflix account. Just the two of you, no one else interrupting, enjoying a movie to the fullest. You start browsing through what Netflix has to offer. There the first option of choice arises: are you in the mood for a happy-ending love story or Brad Pitts Moneyball? Or maybe a movie is not at all what youre looking for. You start looking at the endless list of series and documentaries. At some point, you get overwhelmed by the amount of choice and after 30 minutes youre still at the point of wandering around in the Netflix catalogue. This is a perfect example of what Barry Schwartz calls the paradox of choice, the idea that more choice leads to more psychological stress and less happy feelings.

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    Lesson : The More Options You Have The Harder It Gets To Decide And To Decide Well

    You cant argue that we dont have enough choice nowadays. Between 1975 and 2008, the average number of products in a supermarket has risen from under 9,000 to over 47,000.

    When trying to combine speakers, a tuner, an amplifier, a CD player, and a bunch of other components into a stereo system, just one electronics store will give you a massive 6.5 million different combinations to set up a stereo system!

    We always claim we want freedom, but Barry Schwartz suggest it might have gotten a little too much. For 2 reasons:

  • Having so much choice makes it extremely hard to choose at all.
  • Having so much choice makes it extremely likely youll make a mistake.
  • The research necessary to buy a pair of shoes these days is mind-boggling and could easily be a full time job. While researching a lot might just be a waste of time for shoes, for health insurance or retirement plans, its necessary.

    Some of our choices have big consequences, and sadly the government doesnt make these choices for us any more. 50 years ago there was exactly one health insurance in the US, Blue Cross.

    You got your electricity from one company, heat from another, and thats it. The government pre-selected these for you.

    But now, they dont. The crushing burden of choosing the exact right one is now left to you, the individual.

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