Ok, here’s the deal. I want to cover the Paradox of Choice, because I think it’s a really cool concept to have in your head. However, in the course of researching it, I discovered that there isn’t a ton of experimental evidence supporting it. So, take this with a grain of salt. I’ll do a real, math-containing paradox this Wednesday, I promise!

So, having more options is good, right? The more types of bread, or movies, or insurance plans are made, the more likely it is you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for.

But… but just look at this picture.

Are you feeling a teensy bit stressed? Because I’m feeling a teEENSY bit STRESSED. That is SO much YOGURT.

The idea behind the paradox of choice is that while people always say they want more options when you ask them, if you have too many options, it can cause stress and worry that you chose wrong, and it takes much longer to choose.

For example, look again at the picture of yogurt from my local Fred Meyer. Imagine trying to choose one yogurt out of this mix- you’d have to sort it out by type (Greek? Whipped? Plain?) flavor (Caramel? Strawberry? Vanilla?) and price (by item, or by weight?). And even once you chose that yoplait, you might wonder if another type might taste better.   

That’s really all I’ve got for you today. I just think it’s a neat little concept to have, to remind you that when you’re making a decision, sometimes the stress of the decision making process itself can be a factor.

3 thoughts on “Paradox of Choice

  1. Grocery stores have researched this quite a bit. It’s how they survive (and thrive) on slim margins. They have figured out how to steer us towards what they want us to want to buy, and how to manipulate the paradox of choice in their favor.

    That aside, we want choices, but we don’t want to have to =make= choices. That is, we want our choices to be curated. But we want to choose who curates them. This is part of the idea of branding and belonging – once we choose a brand or group, we stick with it in part because it relieves the need to keep choosing, so we can enjoy the thing we’ve chosen.

    So, why =do= we want choices? To help think about this, imagine going to a store with a friend, and have that friend choose for you. You will have no say in the matter – you give her the generic shopping list and she fills your cart right in front of you, making the choices out of the zillions of options. You can look over the options, but cannot tell her what to put in or what to avoid (allergies aside).

    How does it feel? Are you happy afterwards? Does it matter which friend you do this with?

    I posit that eventually this will be the way life goes, if it’s not already doing this. Software is already choosing what news you see, who you go out with, what ads are plopped in front of you, and even literally what goes in your shopping cart (peapod anybody?) As software gets to know us better, it can make better choices for us and we’ll happily let it… until we realize that the “better” choices it is making benefits not us but them. But by then you’ll be used to robots refilling your fridge, and your not being able to fine-tune the algorithm. You won’t want to go back to manually buying every single thing you need.



    1. Wow, that’s like 100X more insightful than this crap I threw up at 10:30 last night! Would it be ok if I copied and pasted this into a follow-up post so it’s more visable?


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