This is part two in a part five series about choices. Click here for part one.
The first dilemma of choice is that there can be “too much choice”. When there is little to choose from (vanilla or chocolate ice cream) we tend to make decisions more easily. Additionally, if there is little choice and if we don’t get what we think we deserve we can blame someone else (I wish they would make another ice cream besides vanilla and chocolate – I am not to blame for this but “they “ are to blame).
Now that we live in a world with a dizzying amount of choices, we oftentimes blame ourselves if the choice does not lead to our own satisfaction. After all, in a world with so many choices, one choice just has to be right for me. Right? In the fear of “getting it wrong”, we sometimes get stuck in decision paralysis – we avoid making any decision because we can’t handle more than a limited number of choices and in the face of so many choices we do not want to make the wrong choice.
Since we do not have a lifetime to carefully consider all the options, one quick way that many solve these two problems (too many choices and the fear of “getting it wrong”) is to look for outside social cues. If I look at what other people are doing (i.e. what’s popular), not only have I limited my number of choices but if I feel that the decision was wrong, I can blame someone else. Think of a bestseller list. Now that I have a list to show me what is popular, my choice of what to read/listen to/watch has been reduced to a manageable number. And if I do not like the choice, I don’t feel that I am at fault for making a bad choice since “the list” said it would be good.
But is this really better? Should we as marketers limit the choices available to consumers? Pinkberry, a popular frozen yogurt company in California and New York, only sells two flavors – regular and green tea. This may be extreme example, but what if we were to limit the choices available to consumers? Do more choices offer liberation or paralysis? What do you think?
Bonus: Watch Barry Schwartz at the TED 2005 conference giving his speech entitled “The Paradox of Choice: