Maybe it’s happened to you at a restaurant, buying bath towels, or while deciding on life-insurance.
Whatever the decision to be made, businesses offer a variety of choices because consumers do want options.
However, research has shown time and again that too many choices leads to a kind of shut-down, an inability to decide. Yet, too few choices leads to dissatisfaction.
Is there an ideal number of choices?
In a recent study published in the journal Nature, *neuroscientists investigated the covert mental processes during the process of decision-making. They “explored choice overload by using using functional magnetic resonance imaging while subjects were either choosing from varying-sized choice sets or were browsing them.”
The sets were of 6, 12 or 24 items and what the researchers found was that brain activity in the striatum and anterior cingulate cortex was highest when subjects were browsing or choosing from 12-item sets. A set of six offered to few options and a set of 24 was deemed too large.
In an interview with ScienceDaily, one of the researchers, Colin Camerer, Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics at Caltech and the Leadership Chair of T&C Chen Center for Social and Decision Neuroscience, said that while 12 appeared to be the right size in the study, in real life the best possible options for a set to choose from would probably be between 8 to 14 items, depending on a variety of factors such as: “the perceived reward, the difficulty of evaluating the options, and the person’s individual characteristics.”
How To Decide
One of the most successful products is the iPhone. Most versions offer only three color-finish options. Many people, however, use cases for their phones, and there are many more designs to choose from.
But the iPhone might be the exception to the rule. Automobiles, cereal brands, and even other cell phones (yes, they exist) offer numerous options, often using the buzz-words “customize” or “personalize,” although really there is no personalizing going on–just more complex choices to be made.
What’s the best way to make a decision when choosing a product?
Decide what yours are.
Here’s a list of some possible priorities that can be applied to a wide range of product choices (some more than others.)
List your top three or top five and that will help you narrow down almost any decision.
Convenience/Easy to purchase and/or upgrade
Convenience/Easy to use
*Elena Reutskaja, Axel Lindner, Rosemarie Nagel, Richard A. Andersen, Colin F. Camerer. Choice overload reduces neural signatures of choice set value in dorsal striatum and anterior cingulate cortex. Nature Human Behaviour, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41562-018-0440-2