1. Learn UX
  2. Psychology in UX

Burden of choice

Have you ever felt like you want to learn, choose, or do, everything at once, but you couldn’t, and instead of starting somewhere, you mastered the art of procrastination? You find something you absolutely love, and dunk a toe in the little knowledge you find online…

…only to realize you’ve been sucked into a pool of knowledge you cannot pick from.

There are just too many things. And choosing sucks, right?

Barry Schwartz, American psychologists, argues in his book The paradox of choice, that eliminating choices greatly reduces stress in consumers.

Having the freedom of choice is something we all strive for, but having too many choices from which we can choose can push us into a constant state of the tress. Have you ever seen a child when she was presented with as little as three choices, or sometimes even two? At a young age, they cannot choose, and because of that, we can see their fear, frustration, and in the end feeling of powerlessness.

What is the limit for grown-ups? 20, 30, 50 … 100 choices? What do you think?

It’s 7. Seven!

No wonder we feel overwhelmed standing in the supermarket, staring at the shelf with 50 different types of coffee. I usually go for the organic one, and then just close my eyes and pick one. And when I find the one I like, I don’t really look at other ones.

Recently I’ve listened to a TED talk How to make choosing easier. Sheena Iyengar, professor at Columbia Business school, talks about choices we make daily.

She tells how she did research in one of the upscale grocery stores known for an extensive product selection.

She set up a booth for free jam tasting on two consecutive Saturdays.

On the first Saturday, she offered 24 flavours of jam and on the other only 6. She monitored what happened, and discovered that 60% of customers stopped for the tasting and 3% bought the jam when they could choose from 24 flavours. When she offered 6 flavours, 40 % of the customers stopped and tasted, and 30% of those bought jam.

That’s quite a difference, right?

With so many sources from which to choose, we get stressed easily, and today when stress really is the last thing we need or want, we avoid activities that want that from us. Sometimes that means learning new things, trying new products, reading a new book … it can be as simple as buying a bagel.

Watch the whole video here:

So, we know making choices is stressful, but sometimes there is no way out. We have to make choices.

How can you make that as stress-free as possible?

1. Listen to your intuition and value your first reaction.
2. Limit your choices. What is it that you do NOT want?
3. Make pro: con list.
4. Make a plan. You don’t need to know or do everything at once.
5. Ask for help.

Until next time, have fun!

Do you like Pia Klancar's articles? Follow on social!
Comments to: Burden of choice

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.