Well, several experiments have shown that when shoppers are presented with either an extensive or limited amount of potential consumer choices (e.g.chocolates, jam flavors) more people actually end up making purchases, and are happier, when the choice environment only offers a limited set of options.It is not that surprising that our decision making system breaks down when the human brain is confronted with too many options.Similar evidence is found in other non-human animals.If you’re still not entirely convinced, consider the fact that you are able to judge the appeal of a face in less than 13 milliseconds.That’s right, research strongly suggests that your mind has decided on the attractiveness of a face before you are even consciously aware of the fact that you have seen one.Fortunately, the majority of people do not seem to share my particular troubles with speed dating.Yet new research does point out a different dating problem: being confronted with a large number of choices can make it harder to make a good decision.
In fact, some years ago, I decided to try it myself.
In an attempt to cope with the large amount of information and potential choices that we are presented with on a daily basis, we tend to rely on so-called “heuristics” (rules of thumb) that help guide our decision making.
In essence, heuristics are decision-making tools that save effort by ignoring some information; and thus, their essential function is to reduce and simplify the processing of cues and information from our environment. In particular, prior research by Lenton and Francesconi suggests that when the number of potential speed-dating partners goes up, people tend to increasingly rely on heuristics in their decision making strategies.
When the little buzzer went off after three minutes, I was (typically) still in the process of trying to explain to my bedazzled dating partner why my last name has three syllables (it’s Dutch).
As you can imagine, I did not find the love of my life.