Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 6, 2019
84 shades of whiteNow that I'm retired, I thought it was time to work on a project husband Art and I have talked about for ages - painting our bedroom. So last Friday, daughter Mariya accompanied me to Home Depot to help me pick paint colors.
Much of today's Western culture is based on the liberal belief in the freedom of choice. By making our own decisions, in line with our individual preferences, we expect to increase well-being and happiness. This is supported by the economic market, which has adapted to offer a maximum of product variety to cater to every possible consumer preference. Awesome, right?
But psychological research has shown that trying to choose between too many options can be so challenging that consumers shy away
from the process altogether, leading to "analysis paralysis."
Barry Schwartz, author of "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less," published in 2004, says:
... there's a point where all of this choice starts to be not only unproductive, but counterproductive - a source of pain, regret, worry about missed opportunities and unrealistically high expectations.
If that sounds crazy, consider a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology from 2000. Social psychologists Sheena
Iyengar, a management professor at Columbia University Business School, and Mark Lepper, a psychology professor at Stanford
University, discussed an experiment where two groups of shoppers encountered a display of jam. One group had six choices and the
other had 24. Shoppers showed more interest in the larger assortment. But customers were 10 times more likely to make a purchase
if they could only chose among six rather than among 24.
Just think of the pressure that places on a store manager. More choices attract more customers, but those shoppers are more likely to buy something when the choices are fewer! So it wasn't just me dealing with analysis paralysis.
After studying the color swatches I took home, I eventually narrowed my choice of paints down to a few and called to order some sample jars so we could test the paint on our walls. "Would you like those in flat, eggshell, satin or semigloss?" the helpful woman asked.
This painting job may be done by Christmas. And if it is, well maybe it will be Snowfall White outside or perhaps we'll have Melting Icicles that match our wall color. And maybe I could write a column about it. Do they allow computers in the loony bin?
Of course they do: Apples, Lenovos, HPs, Dells, Acers ...
"Art, which do you like?" I asked.
"Either one," he answered. "They're the same!"