Less is Better

August 31, 2009 § 2 Comments

Though Rational Behavioral Economics suggests that “A person behaves in a perfectly rational manner when a perfectly rational environment”, it almost never happens. To put it simply, rational environment(enough knowledge for the decision-maker, enought time to decide, enough options) never exists, as everyone is time bound and does not posess in and out knowledge of the situation + the most vital piece : Human beings are not rational with erratic behaviors.

I just watched this video on the Paradox of Choice by Schwartz. It says, too many choices do not actually increase our happiness and way of living. But, up to a certain point they are indeed proportional. After that, more alternatives result in the following:

1. Paralysis – We are stuck, not sure which one to go with. Fear of choosing the one. “Research has found that increasing the number of mutual funds available to employees in their 401(k) plans can result in lower participation rates. One employer found that for every 10 mutual funds included in its program, participation dropped 2 percent, even though opting out of the plan meant passing up the opportunity to receive up to $5,000 in employer matching funds (Schwartz, 2004)”

2. Unsatisfaction – Easy to imagine that we could have made another choice, this regret subtracts the satisfaction which we had got, making the decision even worse. Though u pick a choice, u never stop thinking and comparing about other options you could have had..(living in the moment)


The huge number of choices might be appealing at first, but it is a huge put off when it comes to purchase decisions. Here is a funny example which Barry cites in the video:

(conversation happens between Barry and a Salesperson in a Jeans showroom)
Barry: I want a good pair of jeans, this is my size, blah blah blah..
Salesperson: Do you want to go for Slim fit or Relaxed fit or
Easy fit or Stone wash or Acid wash or Button fly or Zipper fly or Boot cut, etc..
Barry: (jawdropped) I want the kind which used to be the only kind..

(The salesperson had no idea what that was!)

Added to the different styles are brands, there is Levis, Trigger, Pepe, Diesel, Wrangler, cK…wow. Imagine the magnitude of consfusion.

Anyway, what could be done to make the purchase of a person easier? to make the whole process simpler and happier?

1. An option for customers to decide the features/comfort they want, gradually narrowing down their choices

2. Narrow your options. Visit just one show room in place of 10.

3. Be content with what you have got.

4. …

If you feel, there are more things which could make us live happier in the ocean of choices and distractions, pls. add it in the comments section…

Arun Vallappan


1. Choice Optimization

2. Abundance of Choices-Shwartz 2004

3. Paradox of Choice Video by Barry Shwartz at Ted Talks


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§ 2 Responses to Less is Better

  • Kshitij Lakhera says:

    I start here with the central idea of your blog i.e. choice.
    Choice can be directional too wherein first the subsets of the main class/choice can be taken and then, descending downwards we further make other choices and so on till we come to a logical conclusion wherein we weigh our options against one another and then go for the kill.
    Taking the same example as you gave.
    the customer can be asked what features according to him does a good jeans have…does it include jeans in vogue,does it include a brand name blah blah etc but mind you the questions as i mentioned should be in parts to form a tree and not in bulk so that the customer is at his ease.Most of the confusion arises from unparallel things being compared .. obviously a person will get confused….
    Going a little more into the matter we can also find in most of the cases where ppl tend to regret for past choices,on a personal note i feel they have an attitude like that and irrespective of what they would have bought they might never be satisfied by it,if you look closely you will find a paradox in these feelings wherein they(the consumer)want everything to be in their purchasing item and so not getting something gives them the displeasure of leaving it.So infact they too are looking for something that is not present among the choice…so the sadness,it also could be other external factors that prevent them from getting what they want.its almost like finding best pair of cloth material that too at a cheap price….i’ll end my comments here ..but i would like to mention here that the honesty and plainness of your blog was riveting…

    • Arun Vallappan says:

      u r right, things would be lot more simpler if presented in a tree form, in the form of an inverted pyramid. I know you so well, to say, ur comfort n preference/likeness precedes over impressing others or for the sake of being in vogue. But,
      We need to get our priorities right!
      best product at cheap price – statement holds always good for few moments. i know u wud hav wanted to say, mind gets bored of the relative terms: best and cheap. looks out for more deals and falls into a cyclical trap.
      Thanks for the comment and taking time to do it. 🙂

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