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Source: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Published: December 2000
n = 754 shoppers

When Choice is Demotivating

Circulated: September 25, 2019

On one day, shoppers at an upscale food market saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off any jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. The large display attracted 39% more interest than the small one. But when the time came to purchase, 4% of the people who saw the large display converted compared to 31% of the people who saw the small display.

There is diminishing marginal utility in having alternatives; each new option subtracts a little from the feeling of well-being. More choice requires increased time and effort and can lead to anxiety, regret, and self-blame if the choices don’t work out. When the number of available options is small, these costs are negligible. More choice is not always better. (Barry Shwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice)

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