Why choice makes it harder to choose

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There are two kinds of people: those who choose quickly, and those who take time to choose.

In his book The Paradox of Choice, Professor Barry Schwartz argues that the amount of choice available to us now is making people unhappier and more dissatisfied.

The people who take time to consider their options fare worst here.

There are too many to look at, too many criteria to compare and it’s a struggle to find one that is perfect.

Just looking at more options makes you perceive something you already have as less valuable.

As a result, having choice just makes one afraid of making the wrong decision.

Fear of regret then drives decision making, paralysing people into doing nothing.

We’d be happier, according to Barry, if we:

  • Restricted the amount of choice we had voluntarily.
  • Aimed to be good enough rather than the best.
  • Had lower expectations.
  • Required that all decisions were final and could not be reversed.
  • Paid less attention to what other people do.

If you’re on the other side of the table and you want to improve your sales then instead of focusing on how best to meet what you think people need, make it easier for them to choose what you do.

If choice is paralyzing, simplifying and making it easier to choose will help more people make a decision.

This will help even more in four situations:

  1. When products are complex.
  2. When comparing options is difficult.
  3. When you’re not sure what you prefer.
  4. When you want to make a quick decision.

In summary, when you next need to decide between increasing choice, or making it easier to choose, try the latter.

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