The tyranny of choice

Today, people are expected to make more choices than any time in history. We are free to make individual decisions in almost every aspect of our lives, from what bread to have for breakfast, to more life-altering choices like education and fund investment. Choice is related to well-being, but can all this decision-making also have a negative effect on our mental health? Psychologist Barry Schwarz argues that choice has become more of a burden than a privilege.

Imagine that you are shopping for yoghurt at your local grocery store. By the time you reach the dairy aisle, you’ve already made hundreds of unconscious decisions, even if your basket remains empty. You finally track down the yoghurt amid milk, whey, dessert yoghurt and lactose-free and vegan variants. The well-stocked store not only offers your choice of food item, brand and taste, you can also select the amount of sugar, fat and whether to go for added protein or not. This process is repeated for any section and store that you choose to shop at. And though we enjoy browsing wide product ranges, in this article, we will focus on some of the scarier effects – it being Halloween and all.

The tyranny of choice

People make thousands of decisions each day. And the more options that are presented to us, the harder we find it to make a choice. We weigh pros against cons, and for ”maximizers” who always want the very best, decision anxiety may linger even after a purchase.

”In Scandinavia, stores are generally quite conceptual, based on what we think attracts the most customers. And the questions that retail staff tend to ask their customers surprise me, they should focus more on the customer’s emotions,” says Mikael Klang, CEO of retail agency Remarkable in Stockholm.

If you run a store that prides itself on carrying a wide selection of products, you must ask yourself whether such a broad offering is truly what sells. Here, we’ve listed three commandments to focus on if you wish to offer your customers an even better retail experience.


Our three commandments


Watch the full TED talk with Barry Schwartz here.

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