Also referred to as ‘overchoice’, the phenomenon of choice overload occurs as a result of too many choices being available to consumers. Overchoice has been associated with unhappiness (Schwartz, 2004), decision fatigue, going with the default option, as well as choice deferral—avoiding making a decision altogether, such as not buying a product (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000). Many different factors may contribute to perceived choice overload, including the number of options and attributes, time constraints, decision accountability, alignability and complementarity of options, consumers’ preference uncertainty, among other factors (Chernev et al., 2015).

Choice overload can be counteracted by simplifying choice attributes or the number of available options (Johnson et al., 2012). However, some studies on consumer products suggest that, paradoxically, greater choice should be offered in product domains in which people tend to feel ignorant (e.g. wine), whereas less choice should be provided in domains in which people tend to feel knowledgeable (e.g. soft drinks) (Hadar & Sood, 2014).

 

Chernev, A., Böckenholt, U., & Goodman, J. (2015). Choice overload: A conceptual review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 25(2), 333-358.

Hadar, L., & Sood, S. (2014). When knowledge is demotivating: Subjective knowledge and choice overload. Psychological Science, 25(9), 1739-1747.

Iyengar, S., & Lepper, M. (2000). When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 995-1006.

Johnson, E. J., Shu, S. B., Dellaert, B. G.C., Fox, C. R., Goldstein, D. G.,  Häubl, G., Larrick, R. P., Payne, J. W., Peters, E., Schkade, D., Wansink, B., & Weber, E. U. (2012), Beyond nudges: Tools of a choice architecture, Marketing Letters, 23, 487-504.

Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York: Ecco.