How Much Choice is Too Much Choice?

Choice is good for well being. Therefore, more choice is… more good. Right?

Perhaps not. We are overwhelmed by choice. You walk into an isle of salad dressings at the grocery store, facing thousands of options, and people become paralyzed.

The classic experiment in this space involves gourmet jam at the grocery store. We’ve all seen this – there are samples of jam. The jam is good. When people try the jam, they buy the jam.

But how many jams should you leave out for people to try? More is better here, isn’t it?  The answer is no. If you open 24 jars rather than 6, more people wander over and try the jam, but fewer actually buy. 90% fewer, in fact.

Too many choices can, counter-intuitively, lead to bad decisions or an inability to choose.

Think now of Medicare prescription coverage. When Part D was rolled out, there were thousands of options available and people were unable to choose.

This was the core message of the SHSMD presentation – The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More by Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College.

As we look further at healthcare in light of this paradox, and we have significant issues.  Much of the health reform debate moving forward revolves around putting patients in charge of their decisions, giving them options, and putting “skin in the game” – making them more responsible for the costs involved. These can be very good, but, in light of the paradox, this leads to decision paralysis.

The number and complexity of the options further leads to bad decisions and lower satisfaction with the decision that was made.

In other words, making health consumers make more choices causes them not to seek care at all (or, at least, not until they can’t avoid it). When they seek care, they often make bad decisions and they are less happy with their decisions, discouraging action next time around.

And this is a bad thing.

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This entry was posted in Consumer Expectations, Tradeshow/Conference by Ben Dillon. Bookmark the permalink.
Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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