Does too much choice overload you?

There’s an adage in consumer psychology - “Give people too many choices, and they’ll choose none”. Or, perhaps they’ll choose poorly - by rushing the decision or becoming overwhelmed. However, at least some research challenges this notion and most people would agree, SOME choice can be a good thing in certain situations, for example when choosing a restaurant.

The question is, how much choice is too much? Are you a person who generally prefers a few well crafted pre-defined options only, a ‘mid range’ (say six to twelve options) or a large amount of options or potentially limitless options to customise consumer products.

There’s no right or wrong answer, just personal attributes. However, by giving this some time and thought, it might help you avoid a bad decision the next time you get overwhelmed, and it may help you add a layer of intent to the way you shop to get the best possible outcomes.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts. Does the endless Netflix menu stress you out or give you joy? Do you see the number of phone and internet plans as an opportunity to get a great deal, or is it just overwhelming? Share your experience in the comments below.


Thank you Choice for addressing this. My sense from friends and peers is that, in our democracy, we are drowning in choices in the areas that don’t matter, and starved of options in the much bigger areas that are life-defining.
My washing machine has about 15 programmes, of which I use 3. Multiply this to every area of life, especially in supermarkets, and you get mental overload. Great for private sector businesses, but not for the consumer.


I find it useful to do a simple ‘needs and wants’ analysis, and have that set in my mind, before considering some buying decision when lots of options are presented.
That seems to me to work very well in narrowing choices from many to a few.


Don’t diss the link, it is right on and the theory has been in retail for many decades.


I am all for choices, but it comes with a caveat - there needs to be (true and accutate) information to allow selection from the choices at hand.

If we were only given basic information, then making a choice becomes almost impossible and one is likely to base selection on a single overriding characteristic.

Lets use an example of a tin of corn.

If the tin only had the word ‘Corn’ on it, then price of a tin compared to others may be the driving factor in decision making. If the tins were all the same price, then what the tin looks or the print style for the word ‘Corn’ could be used (these are subjective and based on impressions).

Fortunately, we don’t buy tins of corn only labelled ‘Corn’. There is a range of other information such as ingredients, origin, nutritional information, manufacturer etc which can be used to assist with decision making, along with the word ‘Corn’, price and marketing ‘sexiness’ of the tin on the shelves. One can also get recommendations from friends or family, or even trawl the internet to gain views of others. Maybe Choice or a reliable foodie has also done a review of tinned corn which can also be used.

The same applies for all other products and services.

True and accurate information is knowledge to support decision making. This can be used to filter out those one doesn’t wish to purchase.


I agree with the quote, that’s what matters most to me.

I’m happy with a long list of choices provided a selection is well described and detailed…I can usually whittle down the list to just a few until I select the one I want.

Unfortunately some services or products just don’t wish to make it easy for comparisons to be made.
In those instances too much undefined choice can be confusing. I try to find out by myself as much as I can about the products or services on offer, and yes, that’s a long and irritating task if the choice is numerous.


Hi Guys,
I don’t believe we have yet reached the overload stage but I don’t think CHOICE should get involved in politics. Supporting the YES side in the referendum is something no organisation and especially CHOICE should touch. This maybe overload we don’t need and let’s face it, the majority of members may in fact vote NO!
Wayne J.

I tend to agree with other members a, few, options are good but to many and it gets confusing. I could discuss this for hours about what should or not be purchased. Technology has to aided in making products cheaper and, can last longer. I can only think previously less, product options mewnt we were all stuck with what was on offer. How come thing’s , lasted longer or, seemed to. Do manufacturers want to confuse everyone or is it because someone designs a new model. End of the day quality over quantity. Thank god for someone who is prepared to make a consumer decision easier because i find it difficult to buy unless it is a cheap product