The Paradox of Choice

According to your text, freedom and personal control foster human flourishing. We saw this is the case of Ruth in the last assignment. But does ever-increasing choice breed ever-happier lives? Some researchers suggest that today’s Western cultures offer an “excess of freedom”—too many choices. Let’s first watch a video on the tyranny of choice to understand the concept: Let’s first watch a video on the tyranny of choice to understand the concept:, let’sexamine an experiment that was conducted at a small local grocery store by Sheena Iyengar, then a graduate student at Stanford University.  Details of the Study The experiment took place in a small but popular grocery store near the Stanford University campus, south of San Francisco, California. A tasting booth was set up in the store on two consecutive typical weekends. These customers were invited “come try our Wilkin and Sons jams.” This was a variety of jam that was typically sold in the store. However, the most popular flavors of the jam (e.g., strawberry and raspberry) were not included in the tasting booth set in order to encourage people to try something new. Shoppers were given a $1 off coupon to purchase a jam. The jams were priced between $4 and $6, before discount. At different times, the booth offered either 6 types of jam or 24 types of jam. Jam was not sold at the tasting booth. If a person wanted to buy jam, he or she had to go to the shelves, find the jam from a set of 28 flavors of the Wilkin and Sons brand, as well as other jellies and jams regularly available. In other words, purchasing on of the jams required the shoppers to make the effort to find a particular jam on the shelves, just as they would on a typical shopping day. The two experimental conditions in this study are: A table with 6 jars of jam A table with 24 jars of jam A total of 242 customers walked near the booth when there were 24 jars on the table. A total of 260 customers walked near the booth when there were 6 jars on the table. Which table do you think had more customers stop and taste the jam? Take a look at the results below. 60% of the 242 customers (142) stopped at the 24 jam table 40% of the 260 customers (104) stopped at the 6 jam table More people (and a higher percentage) stopped when there were 24 jars on the table than when there were only 6 jars. This suggests that lots of choices captures our attention and draws us in. Interestingly, customers actually tasted about the same number of jams in the two conditions: usually one or two jams. The real test in this experiment is found in the amount of jam that was sold, either on the same day or within the week that the $1-off coupon was valid. Which table do you think sold more jam? Take a look at the results below. Of the customers stopping at the 24 jam table, only 3% (4 customers) used the coupon to buy jam sometime in the following week. Of the customers stopping at the 6 jam table, 30% (34 customers) used the coupons to buy jam during the following week. Statistically, there is a very strong difference between these two outcomes. The researchers studied a variety of other choice objects. For example, using a very different setting, they found similar results when people were offered a large or small variety of chocolates. And they found that students were far more likely to choose to write an optional extra-credit essay when offered only 6 topics to choose from than when they were offered 30 topics. ASSIGNMENT A) Discuss THREE things that you learned or found interesting from the video.  B) Based on the research you just read about, describe Dr. Iyengar’s experiment with jam: What are the two hypotheses in the experiment? What are the independent variables? What are the dependent variables? Discuss the results: “Why would people buy fewer products when they were given more choices?” Use your understanding of psychology and decision-making from the video to support your argument in explaining the paradox of choice.  Support your ideas with additional examples and information from the video. Finally, discuss how you could use and apply these results in your own life (think about making choices for Netflix movies, options for you kids with certain things, changing the paint color in your house, etc.)!  In what situations would you want to offer choice to provide freedom and a sense of control, but not TOO many choices that we feel overwhelmed?  I want to see a specific example discussed.

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