Why we tend to have difficulty making choices when faced with many options.


Choice Overload Bias

, explained.

What is the Choice Overload Bias?

Choice overload, or “overchoice”, is a well-studied phenomena whereby we tend to have difficulty making a choice if presented with numerous options.

Why is it important?

This has many potential consequences, including fatigue, choosing the default, deferring the choice (or not making a choice at all), and unhappiness. There are clear guidelines arising from research choice overload, specifically in the context of sales: less is more. It is usually better to present people with a small number of easy-to-understand options, rather than overwhelming them with endless iterations of products to choose from. Providing countless options to people is often counterproductive to the goal of getting them to make a choice; since the result more often than not is choice deferral,or failing to choose anything at all.


An almost universally-cited example is an experiment by Lyengar and Lepper in 2000 which studied two jam-tasting booths in a grocery store. One booth had six options, and the other had twenty-four. Although the larger booth did draw in more customers, only 3% of those drawn in eventually made purchases compared to approximately 30% of those drawn into the smaller booth.