CAN LOTS OF CHOICES MAKE US UNHAPPY?—REVISITED. I posted here about the paradox of choice (and the book of that title by Barry Schwartz). That paradox says that having too many choices can make the process of choosing painful. There is a famous experiment in a supermarket which has been cited in support of the paradox of choice. The experiment seemed to show that consumers bought more jam if they were presented with fewer varieties to choose from. This article describes the experiment and extends the result to speed dating: “A grocery store alternated allowing customers to sample 24 different flavors of jam & 6 different flavors of jam. With 24, more people came to the table but 1/10th as many people bought jam. In Speed dating, you are more likely to select a match with 6 dates vs. 10.” Economists tend to be uncomfortable with this result. Stores should have a good idea of what their customers want; if stores are observed offering lots of choices, presumably this is what customers want. Now, this post on the Marginal Revolution blog quotes a Tim Horford article which describes new research that seems to show that the jam experiment cannot be replicated and that offering more choices doesn’t seem to make much difference either way.

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