“The Art of choosing” by Sheena Iyengar has a chapter dedicated to a study she conducted where it was observed that although extensive choice seems appealing, research shows that it may hinder motivation to buy and decrease subsequent satisfaction with purchased goods. She conducted a study where in a departmental store; she kept a tasting booth of jams. Every few hours she switched between offering a large assortment of jams (24 flavors of jams) and a small one (6 flavors of jams). It was found that 60% were drawn to the large assortment and only 40% to the small one – yet only 3% actually bought a jar from the large assortment and 30% bought a jar from the small one. Post the Jam study, she also conducted experiments on the assortment size. These studies, many of which were designed to replicate real world choosing contexts, have found fairly consistently that when people are given a moderate number of options (4 to 6) rather than a large number (20 to 30), they are more likely to have a choice, are more confident in their decisions and are happier with what they choose.
It is important to have a choice – just imagine, you need to buy a shirt and you go to a shop where there is only one option (quite possible for people on the heavier side like me :- () You come back disappointed (you will buy only if you are in urgent need of one – I have actually done that once when I had to go for the fourth interview in an organization and had exhausted all my shirt options which could go well with the blazer, I had no option, but to buy the single shirt available in my size). But how much is too much? George Miller, a cognitive psychologist has published that the number of objects an average human can hold in his working memory is 7 ± 2. Anything more, it is difficult to process informaiton.
What is your take? How many options would you like? Would it differ? For example, I would like to have more options (definitely more then 7 ± 2) for clothes or books or movies but fewer for financial services (It is difficult to understand one product – how do I find the inclination or drive to understand 20??). Have there been cases where you needed to buy something and got rattled because of the number of options and eventually returned empty handed? Do write in….will love to know your point of views….