The overwhelm of choice


Raeden Norris, Staffer

Typically, having many choices is seen as a good thing, but is there a point where it becomes too much? Can having a considerable amount of options be a bad thing? In 2000, two psychologists, Mark Lepper and Sheena Iyengar published a study about this very question.

They gave shoppers at a market, samples of different flavors of jam. Samplers were given a dollar-off coupon for said jam. One day, they were shown 24 types of jam, on another day, only six types were available for sampling. While more people were drawn to the larger amount of jam, they were only one-tenth as likely to buy the jam in comparison to those who saw the smaller amount of jam.

Even though there was more interest, there was less actual profit made from the larger display. More studies have been came out with similar results. Even though we may be drawn to large amounts of choice, we end up getting overwhelmed, and either make a disappointing choice or backing away from choosing at all. 

There’s more to this than just a choice of jam. Overwhelming options can lead to decreased satisfaction in things as simple as what show you watched on Netflix or something as huge as what career you will pursue. Most people assume more = better because that seems reasonable, but the truth may be more complicated than that.

Having more options definitely isn’t bad; it’s just much more complicated than we first assumed. Certain times, having lots of option is excellent, and can lead to great possibilities, while in others we need a small selection of choices to minimize dissatisfaction and regret. 

Not only can it be overwhelming, but having more choices can take much more time, for things like weighing your options, which can lead to anxiety, and again, dissatisfaction. There will always be that lingering thought of “what if option B would have been better?” and sadly you’ll never know. 

Too much choice is probably unavoidable, and there are likely a lot of choices that everyone finds themself second guessing themselves on nearly every day, but the only way to get over it is to remember that overchoice is a part of life, and make sure it to get too hung up on the choices you’ve made. Life will always keep going, and you should be glad that you have the opportunity to second guess your choices, because there are lots of people in this world who don’t have the luxury of making so many choices, if any at all. No matter how disappointing your choices may seem, you made them, and the only way to stay happy is to keep moving forward.