the myth of Perfect Choice

The Economist examines the tyranny of choice in everyday life. More choice,would seem like an innovator’s best friend. promising fewer mistakes. Or ways to compensate for uncertainty of the value you are creating.

Taken in a marketplace context, which is often the first moment of truth for any design concept, there is often more noise than signal. All of which makes it hard for consumers to ever be sure they got what they came for. 

…wheel a trolley down the aisle of any modern Western hypermarket, and the choice of all sorts is dazzling. The average American supermarket now carries a 48,750 item, according to the Food Marketing Institute, more than five times the number in 1975. Britain’s Tesco stocks 91 different shampoos, 93 varieties of toothpaste and 115 of houshold cleaner…

…Over the past decade behavioural scientists have come up with some intriguing insights. In one landmark experiment, conducted in an upmarket grocery store in California, researchers set up a sampling table with a display of jams. In the first test they offered a tempting array of 24 different jams to taste; on a different day they displayed just six. Shoppers who took part in the sampling were rewarded with a discount voucher to buy any jam of the same brand in the store. It turned out that more shoppers stopped at the display when there were 24 jams. But when it came to buying afterwards, fully 30% of those who stopped at the six-jam table went on to purchase a pot, against merely 3% of those who were faced with the selection of 24.

Expectations have been inflated to such an extent that people think the perfect choice exists

The researchers repeated the experiment with chocolate as well as student essay topics and found similar results. Too much choice, concluded Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and Mark Lepper of Stanford, is demotivating…

via The tyranny of choice: You choose | The Economist.

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