Choice

As soon as we wake up each morning, our brains have to make decision after decision. A great majority of decision-making is routine. Meaning it is completed with little to no conscious thought. We make choices in our subconscious minds all day long.

Examples of subconscious decisions include whether to take a shower before brushing our teeth, turning on the TV before sitting down, and starting your car before going outside. We give much more consideration to more meaningful choices. Examples of these choices include car shopping, house hunting, and determining a location to go during vacation.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a choice is “the act of picking between two or more possibilities.” Options are usually made of a person’s own volition based on what that person believes will yield the best outcome.

Our most basic choices stem from our need for survival. This includes the need for nourishment, warmth, and water. Thankfully, these choices are easier today than in past years. Could you imagine living In the Stone Age? Life-or-death choices had to be made daily. The choice between hunting for food or protecting your shelter must have been decided multiple times daily in those days.

Though we may not realise it, the modern world is filled with many luxurious choices. Many of our choices are based on our desire for personal fulfilment. Think of the unlimited possibilities we have relating to fashion or furniture. We can choose our colours, styles, sizes, and price range. These choices boost our self-image, self-esteem, or social standing.

There is great debate on the subject of choices and how those choices affect our happiness, success, and outlook on life. Years of research and study have been conducted regarding the matter of choice. Below are two studies based on the public’s reactions regarding choice.

Study #1: In the 1980s, Prego asked psychophysicist Howard Moskowitz to revise their paste sauce product line. Moskowitz surveyed thousands of Americans on 45 different types of Prego pasta sauce.

Moskowitz recommended that Prego look for simple trends in the data. Based on his findings and recommendations, Prego launched only one new product. This new product was labelled “Chunky” and made the company six hundred million dollars. This was achieved by offering customers a targeted choice rather than shelf after unlimited shelf options.

Study #2: In 1995, a Columbia University professor, Sheena Iyengar, performed a choice experiment. In a gourmet market, she set up two different displays of jam. On one show, there were 24 possible options of jam.

On the second display, there were six possible jam options. The results revealed that the availability of 24 jam options had a conversion rate of only 3% (percentage of customers who purchased). At the same time, the smaller display of only six jams resulted in a conversion rate of 30%.

People believe that the more choices they have, the better off they will be. However, this is typically not the case. As outlined in the studies above, the more options a person has, the less likely they are to make a concrete decision.

Our cognitive ability is unable to compare more than five options effectively. When more than five options are available, most people only look at the first couple of options and then stop. The old saying, “Less is more”, really is true.

We make conscious and unconscious decisions all day long. These choices affect our survival and quality of life. Imagine how different your life would be if your ability to choose were taken away. Never forget that the gift of choice is beautiful; use it wisely.