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Snooth User: Philip James

Paradox of Choice

Posted by Philip James, May 3, 2007.

The Paradox of Choice (which I brought up briefly in yesterday's post ) explains why as the number of choices increase, the ability for a person to make a choice between them goes down. You might have experienced this yourself: if you walk into the store and they sell 5 types of soda, you'll buy one fairly quickly. When they sell 500, you'll still buy one, but it'll take a lot longer to find what you're looking for.

Thats fairly obvious, but whats interesting, is that we all want 500 types of soda, even though it doesn't cause us to make 'better' decisions. And the more choice you're presented with, the more you'll worry about your decision afterwards.

Think of it in the context of a restaurant with a 2,000 bottle wine list. With such choice, it would likely be their main selling point. "What a fabulous collection!"

The problem is, I'm only going to drink one, so the other 1,999 only result in me wasting time choosing, and then wondering for the rest of the evening if one of the other wines would have been better.

Betsey and I were both taught by Sheena Iyengar, and Mark went to Swarthmore where Barry Schwartz teaches. Both researchers who are at the forefront on this topic, so it won't come as a surprise that we've spend a lot of time making sure we don't simply throw 100,000 results at you each time your type in a search.

"Search" is good, but people want "Find" and so we created SnoothRank, which I'll introduce tomorrow.


Reply by andrew, May 6, 2007.

Added to this confusion is the limited information available on each bottle -- information which is typically written by the marketing department. And how influenced people are by a catchy logo (kangaroos!). I'm just as guilty of this influence in a reverse-psychology sort of way, because most of the time I automatically ignore wines with flashy or overly clever labels.

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