Choice Overload aka Problem of Plenty

Source: My friend’s Linkedin post

Choice Overload is an interesting phenomenon that’s been known and researched for decades. Here’s an interesting encounter I had with it in a completely different scenario

The term was first coined by entrepreneur Alvin Toffler in the 1970s, though Princeton academician George Miller had already alluded to the idea as early as 1956. The idea was as provocative as it was revealing- it turns out that as opposed to the free market idea of “the more choice the better”, the average human being best processes between 5 and 9 choices. Anything less feels restrictive, and anything more often leads to no decision at all. This principle plays itself out in a lot of school and work situations, be it deciding where to place buttons on a toolbar during Product Design, working through a standardized test, or being in sales and deciding how many customization choices to give a client.

Believe it or not, the prescribed remedy in such a case is- give yourself a break, or as the author of this article puts it, “eat a chocolate bar and get some rest!” The point is, don’t feel pressured to make a choice for the sake of it, because it might be your brain telling you it needs more time. Don’t get bogged down by the problem of plenty.

Another study showed something similar about search results:

The first ranking position in the search results receives 42.25% of all click-through traffic
The second position receives 11.94%
Third position on the first page obtains 8.47%
The fourth placed position on page one receives 6.05%
The others on the first page are under 5% of click through traffic
The first ten results (page one ) received 89.71% of all click-through traffic.

So beyond a point, your brain cannot process more choices. That’s also one of the reasons why surveys/feedback have a five-point scale (or at times a ten-point scale, but not beyond that)


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