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Does MORE Choices Actually Liberate You?

By Rochi | Psychology

Sep 29

There’s nothing like the freedom of choice.

Nothing so bittersweet. Actually, more bitter than it is sweet.

With the coming of the updated 21st century market, there are too many choices for even the most routine products:40 different types of toothpastes, 360 different types of shampoo and 275 choices of cereal.

It’s no more about what you do. It’s about what you choose to do.

Although it may seem like that more options lead to better choices, it’s not always true. There are counter-intuitive effects of choices, some of which are not to your benefit.

Here, I list you some of the most paradoxical effects of choices that you unknowingly choose to ignore:

 

Choices lead to depression and loneliness

Have you ever felt frustrated choosing the perfect clothes out of your overfilled wardrobe?

If yes, then you’re close to what this feels like.

While abundance of choices give you freedom, it also carries along a numbing uncertainty, depression and selfishness.

fashion-clothes-hanger-clothes-rack-clothing

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that choices mean different things to Westerners and non-Westerners.

While European Americans seemed to experience a threat to their independent self when they were not offered a free choice, the Indians did not feel it significant.

Denial of choice might make you feel opposition to the right of personal preference.

When there are too many choices and you have to choose one, you tend to focus on the trade off which makes you feel worse in the long-run.

If choices don’t make add anything, they shouldn’t take anything away either, right?

But choices do…

 

Choices rob your satisfaction

In a study done at Swarthmore College, college students were asked to evaluate a variety of gourmet chocolates:

They’d choose the chocolate based on description and appearance. Then they tasted and rated that chocolate. In the end, in a different room students were asked to choose a small box of the chocolates in lieu of cash as payment for their participation.

For one group of students, the initial array of chocolates numbered 6, and for the other 30.

The key results were↓

  • Those faced with the small array were more satisfied with their tasting than those faced with large array.
  • They were also 4 times more likely to choose chocolate rather than cash as their compensation.

The more and more choices you have, the more unsatisfied you are, even if those choices do objectively better than other ones.

When you choose one among a lot of alternatives, you keep stressing over whether you’ve made the right choice.

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Then, you always see grass greener on the other side. You tend to feel that you’ve missed one great opportunity (read: choice) even if it’s value is the same.

And if the choices are greater than the greatest…

 

Too many choices lead you to choosing none

When I say this, some of you might argue that if this was true, markets would’ve been simpler.

But markets are full of chaos and pool of choices. And you might think that they’re still in profits, but.. they’re not.

city-marketing-lights-night

There is evidence of declining sales due to too many choices.

Sheena Iyengar, in her TED Talk, How To Make Choosing Easier tells about an experiment she did as a graduate at Stanford University in a grocery store:

The shop had 348 different kinds of jam. They set up a tasting booth at the entrance of the store. Half of the consumers were offered 6 different types of jam and the other 24.

They discovered two things:

 

24 Kinds Of Jam 6 Kinds Of Jam
People likely to stop 60% 40%
People likely to purchase 3% 30%

 

This means that people were six times more likely to buy a jar of jam when there are 6 as compared to when there are 14.

Single option aversion is a psychology that has always worked in the consumer market. You’re more likely to buy a product when it’s the only options.

Or when there are not too many options.

And you might think that more choices make it simple, but it doesn’t…

 

Choices kill simple living

Simple living is also characterized as minimalism.

And what is minimalism? Choosing less but choosing better.

In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less, Greg McKeown highlights that because of too many choices, we have lost the sight of the most important ones.

He tells that the society’s ability to manage choices has lacked over the number of choices.

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This is what is the decision fatigue: the more choices you’re forced to make, the more quality of your decision deteriorates.

Simplicity always overpowers choices in being successful.

Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less, also says this in his TED Talk:

He says that choices paralyze you rather than liberating you. With so many options to choose from, people find it hard to choose at all.

When you have too much to do, you choose to do nothing at all. You procrastinate to delay choosing.

If you have too many goals at the same time, you’ll achieve none properly. If you have just one, it’s not so hard to focus.

Achieving one makes you achieve more.

If you don’t keep tempting yourself with newer brands or better goals, you’ll keep it simpler.

 

Conclusion

While choices may seem to make us better-off, that’s not always the case. Too few options bore us while too many makes you paralyzed.

With the abundance of choices in the 21st century, choices has led to some negative effects such as feelings of depression, loneliness, less satisfaction and killing simplicity.

There’s a bitter sweet spot of variety where choices don’t hinder your identity: when they’re not too less neither too much.

Some of the solutions to avoid drowning in the pool of choices is to analyze the utility of the choice you make. We tend to remember only the peak pleasure point and how it ended.

You can also simplify your life by cutting off from clever marketing, setting up routines and staying away from distractions.

How has too many choices led you to feel trapped? What did you do about it? I’d love to know in the comments below.

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