Too many options paradox: why fewer options can be better?

Too many options paradox states that while most of us believe that having more options enables us to choose the one that makes us feel the best, in reality, having too many options can leave us unsatisfied with our decision or even unable to make a decision in the first place.

Too many options photo

Where it all began - Jam experiment

Jam experiment was one of the first attempts to study how too many choices can lead a person to bad outcomes or indecision. Conducted in 2000. During the experiment, grocery store shoppers had an opportunity to taste exotic jams at the booth. 2 different versions of the experiment were conducted:

  • One had 6 different exotic jam flavors.
  • The other had 24 exotic jam flavors.

Even though the 24 jam booth had way more tasters, as you can predict from the topic, the booth with 6 jams sold way more jams. This shows how having too many options can lead a person into indecision.

Make a guess!

What was the difference between the two jam booth sales figures?

6 jam booth sales figures were higher by...

Reveal the correct answer!

500 percent!

24 jam booth was approached 2 times more often but it had way less buyers.

Why does it happen?

Having too many options requires more time and effort to pick the best one. This can lead to regret, anxiety, self-blame, and abnormal expectations that are hard to satisfy.

Various studies replicated the outcome of the jam experiment and expanded the understanding of the reasons that create the too many options paradox. These studies conclude that even though more choices can increase the odds of finding the best one, with each additional option added, the overall satisfaction with the decision decreases.

That's why fewer options can be better. Less time will be spent overthinking a high number of choices. Potentially lower risk of anxiety, indecision, and other negative outcomes.

For further research, it is important to note that the too many options paradox is also often called the paradox of choice.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

More articles