Neuromarketing Social

The paradox of choice: many options,few decisions.

The paradox of election does reference to the desmotivación that produces  when we confront us to a taking of decision between very varied options. We live in a society in which it seems that the one of the pillars of our welfare is the freedom of election, which prevails us of an autonomy that would owe to allow us be happier. Partly this is true, however, when they exist too many options where choose our psychological welfare can see  affected negatively.

Why it produces  the paradox of election?

According to a study of the University of Columbia elaborated by Ivengar and Lepper (2000) has showed that the capacity of human management in front of the taking of decision on multiple options is limited. It is better to have options, but to some extent. In his investigations, exposed to a group of people to the decision to buy jams gourmet and chocolate. The group of people to which did them  decide between 6 types of jams had an a lot greater percentage of final purchase of the product (12%) that those that could choose between 24 or until 30 options (2%).

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All this although in the group of more options the people stopped  more time to test between the diverse options, but this cognitive cost and of time prejudiced to the taking of final decision. Besides, the participants manifested greater satisfaction with the purchase made when the options of purchase were more limited.

Psychology of the consumer in the paradox of election.

What sucede to psychological level when we confront us in front of an election between a lot of options can  resumir in 4 main appearances:

  1. Paralysis: have to choose between a lot of options can paralyse us in front of the cognitive effort that supposes to take the decision between so much variety.
  2. Cost of opportunity: still after doing an election are used to to make comparisons with the others options no chosen, usually the positive things. For example, if you decide to buy a black car afterwards will think that the same the white littered  less. That is to say, we are not satisfied with the current decision when can compare it with other what can reduce our happiness with the current purchase.
  3. Increase of expectations. We do not conform us with less when we know that they exist other options in the market.
  4. Autoculpa: The fact of not attaining take the decision because of the big variety of elections and the paralysis that this supposes together with the back analysis of the cost of opportunity lost (think that you would have to have bought or have chosen another mark) finishes for affecting us to psychological level increasing the feeling of fault by have not been able to solve the “problem” of effective form.

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Marketing, psychology of the consumer and paradox of election.

In the strategies of marketing have to take into account this phenomenon and reduce to the just or more efficient quantity the options to present to the customer. All this gives it the experience. We have to present him options, but the just. If for example, a mark of cars would not have to have excessive models for a same market of cars (utilitarios, familiar, etc.).

The same sucede to the hour to give a lot of colours to choose. If there is a lot of variety, also exposes  to have to decide and increases the possibility that  arrepienta of his final decision. This last could be used in marketing like double edge. For example, in the sector of the mobile telephones, give a lot of options of colours for afterwards promote the sale of carcasas of colours induced by the dissatisfaction or bad election of the initial colour. Before we had it simpler, since all the mobile telephones were of black colour and to anybody seemed to matter him.

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To the hour to establish the strategy of marketing have to take into account to two types of potential customers to adapt the context of the sale to the expectations of the possible buyer:

Customers maximizadores. They look for information previously to choose the best option, happen hours in internet comparing and curioseando on the characteristics of the product. In occasions, until know more than the own seller (or this believe). In this case, we will have to try reduce the number of his options so that this exhaustive research do not finish for tiring him and desist in the purchase, but without leaving to give him options since it will try maximizar his purchase with the best product that find. Therefore, these people are more liable to the effect of the paradox of election and it will be necessary to be more accurate in the process available.

Satisfactory customers. They are the people that happen less time processing the information of election of purchase. They are buyers more impulsive by what in front of these customers the sale will be able to be more direct since they will not make comparisons and suffer less the effects of the paradox of election. Therefore, in front of this class of customer put him the simple and direct things will boost a more fast and satisfactory sale.

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Process of election of a product.

According to the American psychologist Barry Schwartz (2014) exist 6 steps to attain take good decisions:

  1. It establishes objective. What is what want? Usually the election base it in the past experiences. If all the life have bought an iPhone and has worked you well, is likely that want to another. An aim no less specific but the same of valid is to say: I want a telephone of last generation.
  2. It evaluates the importance of the aim. It treats  of ponderar the election. Perhaps it like you a lot the iPhone but do not compensate economically in function of the use that go him to give.
  3. It organises the options. Each option will have some characteristics that will differentiate it of the others. In in example, could organise the mobile telephones by elder or less memory RAM or of a more general way by the size of the screen or the operating system: Android – iOS. Here also you can use other more subjective variables. For example, choose the colour of the clothes in function of other clothes that have home to be able to combine better.
  4. It evaluates the probability that have the options to satisfy the aim. Surely many of the options fulfil with the initial aim, makes an estimate of cual has more probability to satisfy it. If for example, it wants to buy you a car for the family, surely any of them have greater capacity of trunk that another, which yes is ranged with the main aim and no the colour or the type instrument of music that carry integrated.
  5. It chooses the winning option. It arrived the moment to choose between all the options. Basically it is the final decision.
  6. It modifies the aims. In base to the experience with the winning option can modify the future aims so that it do not turn into a loop of purchase on a same product. Which sucede when they buy  iPhone since Apple has handled the paradox of election to perfection and offers little quantity of elections inside his products by what when they attract a customer is likely that go back to buy the same model. However, it would have to evaluate the aims. With Android will have the same characteristics and potentialities (or more) that with an iPhone, however, the big quantity of variety of products on this platform does you doubt in the election and to reduce cognitive efforts go back to the first purchase.

All these steps are used to  produce in any taking of decision. It imagines then what sucede when you have to process all this information in a smaller purchase when you find you in front of a shelving of a supermarket with 25 types of espaguetis to choose. More than one will abort the mission because of the paradox of election. It is by rest that the paradox of election has to be very present in the plans of marketing of the companies that will have to have very in account the psychology of the consumer.

Less it is more. More is less.



Iyengar, S., Lepper, M. (2000) When Choice is Demotivating. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79

Scwartz, B. (2014). The  Paradox of Choice – Why Dwell is Less. New York: Harper Perennial.


Iván Pico

Director y creador de Psicólogo Colegiado G-5480 entre otras cosas. Diplomado en Ciencias Empresariales y Máster en Orientación Profesional. Máster en Psicología del Trabajo y Organizaciones. Posgrado en Psicología del Deporte entre otras cosas. Visita la sección "Sobre mí" para saber más. ¿Quieres una consulta personalizada? ¡Escríbeme!

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