New Choices, New Information: Do Choice Abundance and Information Complexity Hurt Aging Consumers’ Medical Decision Making?
In recent years, researchers, public policy makers, and consumers alike have been captivated by the paradox of “too much choice.” This paradox argues that, while choice is typically good, an overabundance of choice can be surprisingly bad, overwhelming us with an informational overload (Huffman & Kahn 1998; Scammon 1977), making us anxious about our decisions (Garbarino & Edell 1997), slow (or unable) to decide (Dhar 1997; Greenleaf & Lehmann 1995; Iyengar & Lepper 2000), and dissatisfied with our outcomes (Botti & McGill 2006; Schwartz 2004). In one choice paradox study, researchers examined consumers buying jam in a grocery store. Iyengar and Lepper (2000) demonstrated that consumers were attracted to larger (24 jams) versus smaller (6 jams) displays but were less likely to choose from
the larger set of jams. The “paradox” in the choice paradox emerges because the downside of having many options runs counter to economic axioms that more choice is always better than less. Economic theory argues that, with more choice, individuals should be more likely to find options that suit heterogeneous preferences and confer greater utility (Lancaster 1990).