Andrew (perspectivism) wrote,
Andrew
perspectivism

[...] a group of subjects were asked to choose which type of chocolate they would buy from a selection of 6 Godiva flavors. Another group was asked to choose on variety from among 30 different flavors.

Subjects who were given extensive choices found the chocolates they
had selected less tasty, less enjoyable and less satisfying than did
the subjects given limited choices. They had more regrets about their
choices and they were less likely to choose chocolates as compensation
for taking part in the study than were subjects whose field of choice
was restricted.

In another study, the researchers set up a "tasting booth" at
Draeger's Supermarket in Menlo Park, Calif., an upscale grocery store
known for its wide selection of foods. (On a normal day, Dr. Iyengar
and Dr. Lepper report, Draeger's features "roughly 250 different
varieties of mustard, 75 different varieties of olive oil and over 300
varieties of jam.")

When shoppers approached the booth, some found a selection of 6 types
of jam to taste; others encountered a choice of 24 different jams.

The wider selection, Dr. Lepper and Dr. Iyengar found, attracted more
shoppers: of 242 customers who passed by, 60 percent stopped at the
tasting booth, compared with only 40 percent of the 260 customers who
passed the more limited display.

But while nearly 30 percent of the shoppers given 6 choices
subsequently bought a jar of jam, only 3 percent of those offered 24
varieties made a purchase.

"Even though consumers presumably shop at this particular store in
part because of the large number of selections available," the
researchers wrote, "having `too much' choice seems nonetheless to have
hampered their later motivation to buy."

They added that "these findings are striking," and they "appear to
challenge a fundamental assumption that having more, rather than fewer
choices is necessarily more desirable and intrinsically motivating."

Dr. Lepper said he was inspired to carry out the studies in part
because of his experience with Stanford's retirement plan. When he
first started teaching at the university in 1971, Dr. Lepper said,
Stanford offered only two investment options, one in stocks and one in
bonds.

"Nine or 10 years later they offered a third choice," he said. "A few
years later, it got up to five choices. And then they hired a new
benefits group, who were great believers in cafeteria plans, and
suddenly we had 157 options."

Dr. Lepper added, "My sense was that this was way more choice than
anybody here wanted."

[...] studying the differences between
people who are "maximizers," viewing each choice as a challenge to
find the very best option, and those who are "satisficers,"
approaching a choice as a search for any option that meets some
specific set of criteria.

For a satisficer, Dr. Schwartz said, a wealth of choices is not a
problem, since the task is merely to find one that works. "But if
you're a maximizer," he said, "the more options there are, the more
overwhelming it is."

In recent years, at least a few manufacturers have picked up on the
idea that endlessly increasing consumers' options is not always an
effective strategy.

In the early 1990's, for example, Procter & Gamble reduced the number
of varieties and sizes of Head and Shoulders shampoo from 26 to 15.
The shampoo's market share increased as a result, according to a
representative of the company.

Still, as Dr. Lepper noted, many studies make clear that having a
choice is better than not having choice at all.

Preschoolers offered a selection of magic markers, for example, draw
better pictures than those told which markers to use. Grade school
children asked to choose the projects they want to work on turn in
work of higher quality than those given no choice. And giving people
options, a host of studies show, can also increase their life
satisfaction, the degree to which they feel internally motivated, and
how much control they perceive themselves as having.

In some cases, it also pays to have as many choices as possible, Dr.
Lepper said. If 1,000 people go into a library looking for something
specific to read, for example, the more volumes there are on the
shelves, the better. And the more entrees there are on a restaurant
menu, the more chance people have of finding what they like to eat.

In such situations, said Dr. Lepper, "We know exactly what we want,
and this gives us the opportunity to match it. Up to the point that it
gets cumbersome, we're going to prefer to have more choices."
— January 9, 2001 NYT article
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