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April 19, 2010


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I can not believe it, your article solved my problem so fast


I like your general take-away message, but I have a few thoughts about the underlying study.

For instance, it is predictable that with a greater number of options, people's selections will be spread wider than the original 6 jams. And, presumably, some of the choices will be bad ones. When there are only 6 choices, the "good" choices comprise a higher percentage of all the choices, and so it is more likely that more people will be happy when presented with only 6 choices rather than 24. In analogy, if the numbers 1, 7, and 8 are considered objectively "good," then more people will be happy when rolling a 6-sided die than a 24-sided die.

And another thought. What is the connection between the frustration felt in the selection process and the happiness with the final choice? Perhaps the difficulty of sorting through 24 options casts a shadow on the final pick making that pick less enjoyable than had only 6 options been originally presented.


Barry Schwartz covered the same issues in his book, the Paradox of Choice. His TED talk can be watched here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6XEQIsCoM .

I've since read somewhere that the original "choice" experiments had some methodological issues (I'm afraid I can't remember the exact article). However, from personal experience I agree that a restricted choice (from 4-7 items or less) is more productive. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that irreversible choices result in happier individuals (see Dan Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness).

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Several studies by Dan Gilbert also seem to suggest that people with more choices tend to be less happy. Actually, he says that we have an innate talent for subconsciously convincing ourselves that we are happy with the current status quo. More choices, however, seem to inhibit this mechanism.

Check out his TED speech and get back to me

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