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Choice paralysis | Too much choice

Choice paralysis in decision making

Avoiding Choice paralysis in business communication

Does too much choice cause paralysis?

Studies by Sheena Iyengar, a business professor at Columbia University, have shown, in a series of fascinating experiments, that too many choices can lead people to give up and make no choices at all. In her book, “The Art of Choosing”, she tells of her now famous ‘jam study’ in which this principle was explored. In the experiment they set up a table at a supermarket, Draeger’s, which offered a huge array of products. They offered shoppers a taste of six British jams on one occasion, and a taste of twenty-four (Choice paralysis option) on the next. More customers were attracted to the larger selection of samples (24). However, they discovered that around 30% of the shoppers who saw the small selection (6) ended up buying jam, but only 3% of people bought a jar after being shown the larger selection. When people have too many choices, they often just walk away.

Think of your own experience in a restaurant with a huge menu. Many people faced with choosing from too many items end up ordering the same item each time. Too many choices can lead to paralysis, indecision or stagnant, habitual choices.Choice paralysis too many choices creates confusion

Beyond jam

A similar study was done on the choice of 401(k) retirement funds, a little more serious than jam. They found for every set of 10 extra fund choices in a company retirement plan, the number of people who enrolled dropped about 2%. 

When there were only two choices, 3 out of 4 people participated (75%), but when there were almost sixty funds only about 60% enrolled. Whether it is medical aids, retirement funds or jam, if it’s a lot of work to choose among the options many people will put off the choice, and may never sign up. Choice paralysis in decision making leads to poor or no decisions.

One solution is to create a default option. In the case of a retirement fund or medical aid with numerous choices, having a default option ensures cover and helps eliminate the paralysis of too much choice.

Limiting choices, or having a default option, can eliminate paralysis when it comes to choice. Be in the moment, focus on a limited number of options to make effective choice.limit choices to reduce choice paralysis


Choice paralysis in decision making

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Richard Riche

Change Communication and Employee Engagement specialist at One Clear Message Consulting
Richard specialises in helping you build real human communication skills. Employee Engagement / Experience, Emotional Intelligence skills, building high performance teams and a great place you want to work. TED style speaking and presentation skills. Training, consulting and coaching.
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One Response

  1. Jacques de Villiers 6 January 2011

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