I am currently struggling with the thought that people have limited appetites for choices, yet advertising is becoming harder and harder to get away from. I think there is some sort of research (maybe a TEDtalk) on how people make decisions. The thought is that we like having a few choices, but as the number of choices increases, we become overwhelmed and are less happy with any choice we make. If we only have three choices, we can quickly decide which one we believe will make us happiest, so we will inevitably select that one. Once we experience the choice, we will likely conclude that we have made the right choice in comparison with the other two, which we have decided are less worthy selections. From this process, we can obtain a level of contentment in making the choice that we are happiest with. Conversely, when we choose from twenty different choices, it takes considerable time to make a choice because we don’t want to be disappointed. We have to learn a bit about every selection to ensure that we pick the best one comparatively and we don’t miss one that we would’ve preferred. This extra time drains our mental energy and takes away from our peace of mind because we don’t want to choose the wrong item. Once we make a selection, the research suggests that we are more likely to second guess our decision because there were flaws in the item (as there are in every item) and we pose the mental question as to whether there might have been a better one. In the three choice situation, it was easy to choose which one you thought you preferred because you could evaluate each item thoroughly. Therefore, you are less likely to make the wrong choice and if you do, you are less likely to dwell on it because you are sure you made the best decision with the information you had. When you have twenty choices, you can miss a key piece of information or realize that you didn’t have the knowledge needed to select the item that would’ve really made you happy, so you are left unsatisfied.
The opportunity cost increases when you have more choices
Your expectations increase when you fully understand the numerous choices available.
Barry Schwartz: how we make choices