Decisions are a big part of life in the 21st century. Never before have we had to make so many of them. Online shopping means you can purchase an item from anywhere and have it delivered conveniently to your doorstep. Dating sites like OkCupid and eHarmony give access to potential romantic partners from all around the world, while Amazon brings the world’s largest product warehouse onto your computer screen. The seemingly endless options may appear to be a blessing, but under certain circumstances, you can have too much of a good thing.
Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper conducted one of the first studies demonstrating the effects of “choice overload.” Using jam, essay topics, and chocolates, they found that people were more likely to make a choice — and be happy with that choice — when presented with fewer options. Paradoxically, despite the negative effects, people found the larger choice sets more appealing and enjoyable to choose from. Some have called this phenomenon the “tyranny of choice.”