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Choice Curve

May 3, 2007

It’s not always good business to offer too many choices.


When less selection means bigger sales. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you’re opening an ice cream parlor, you might think it’s better to offer sixty flavors than a measly six. But some studies have shown that consumers actually buy more when given fewer choices. To better understand this, Dartmouth College cognitive psychologist George Wolford and his students tried to sell up to twenty different kinds of black pens. Then they charted their sales success against the number of choices offered.

GEORGE WOLFORD (Dartmouth College):
We found that it peaked at ten, and went down on either side of ten, but we strongly felt that if you had other items, probably more complex items, we would expect it to peak at lower numbers.

The findings demonstrate that more selection can, in fact, be a good thing – up to a critical point. He says this probably applies not just to buying a TV, but also to choosing a career or even a spouse. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.