It's better for consumers to have more choices. That's the conclusion reached by the psychologists Benjamin Scheibehenne, Rainer Greifeneder, and Peter M. Todd in a new review of studies on consumer choice for the Journal of Consumer Research. Their paper rebuts the idea, popularized by Swarthmore College psychologist Barry Schwartz in his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice, that too many choices overwhelm people, fostering anxiety and dissatisfaction.
Although previous experiments showed that "choice overload" exists, it doesn't seem to be common. The authors reviewed 50 experiments involving more than 5,000 subjects from the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. "Based on the data," they report, "no sufficient conditions could be identified that would lead to a reliable occurrence of choice overload." While there may be specific factors that occasionally paralyze consumers, their results "suggest that having many options to choose from will, on average, not lead to a decrease in satisfaction or motivation to make a choice."