TED Talk: How to make choosing easier

Choice overload first came to my attention through reading The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. (Schwartz’ strategy.) Sheena Iyengar has some newer research on choosing.

The difficulty is people BELIEVE they need more choices to make a good decision. Lots of choices make us happier in part because we invest more time making one which in turn we need to justify those spent resources with pleasure. (I’m thinking this is similar to how that $100 HDMI cable makes me feel better about the signal quality when technically it is not much better than the $5 one.)

The funny thing, though, is that all these choices prevent the making of them. Sales go up with fewer.

  1. Cut : get rid of useless alternatives
  2. Concretize : make it real
  3. Categorize : make differences understandable
  4. Condition : order choices obvious to nuanced

Funny enough, I also posted Malcolm Gladwell’s Pursuit of the Perfect Spaghetti Sauce. This is an illustration of how we get to choice overload. The revolution was that relying on self-reported data is unreliable because people say what is the conventional wisdom not their true desire. Taste tests are better because it measures what they actually like. BUT people are terrible at understanding what they want, which is why I think they bog down in choice overload. Too many options makes it difficult to figure out what is right for “us.”

Iyengar has another TED Talk which has a good primer on choosing. The end has a great story about her experiment with choosing a nail polish (she’s blind and suspected those advising her were influenced by the name).


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