Have you ever scrolled through Netflix trying to pick a movie, sometimes for hours, only to end up picking something you’ve seen before? Or stared at the large menu of a restaurant, just to end up ordering the same dish you always get? If so, you’re not alone. This phenomenon is called the “paradox of choice.” Our society tells us that more is always better. More money, more friends, more possessions. So when it comes to making a decision, having more options is always better, right? Actually, it’s not. The truth is, having more options doesn’t always lead to making the best selection. Human minds tend to get overwhelmed and frustrated when presented with too many alternatives. This leads us to make a poor decision, or sometimes prevents us from making a decision at all.
How many choices are the right number of choices?
So how many choices are too many? What is the optimal number of alternatives for effective decision making? According to a study in the journal, Natural Human Behavior, researchers at Caltech determined that “somewhere between 8 to 15” is the optimal number of choices. Some may argue that fewer choices are preferable, while others may suggest that it depends on the type of decision that you are making. However, most will probably agree that having only one or two options is not ideal. This can trigger the decision-maker to search for more alternatives in order to feel confident, even if already presented with a suitable option. So when you have difficulty making a decision, try to remember that you aren’t a human optimizer. More often than not, you aren’t being indecisive, you just have too many or too few choices.
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John is committed to helping groups make better decisions. He has over thirty-five years of experience leading, managing, and consulting to top public and private sector organizations, and has over twenty years of experience in facilitating group decisions. He founded Definitive Business Solutions in 2003, which provides world-class group decision-making solutions. He founded Definitive Business Solutions in 2003, which provides world-class group decision-making solutions. In 2016, he pioneered development of Definitive Pro®, to help organizations build consensus and make complex multi-criteria decisions. In 2020, he released Definitive Choice®, and app to help individuals and small teams make better decisions. He has been awarded three U.S. patents in the field of group decision-making.
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