The illusion of choice

I’ve talked about the fascinating research of Barry Schwartz and the paradox of choice. Simply stated, the more choices you have the more unhappy you are. Why? Because you can imagine the other thing you didn’t choose.

I’ve also talked about the default setting and why they matter. When you go to the grocery store and choose to buy cookies, you are now choosing which snack you are going to have later. Another way to think about this is the default station in your car. There is a dial right next to it to search for music, and yet, we go to the default setting.

Indeed, cognitive load is real.

There is a third thing to consider about the illusion of choice. That when you go to the store, you are likely to find 100 different types of toothpaste to choose from.

The interesting thing is that the majority of toothpaste is created by only three brands. Crest, Colgate and Sensodyne make up over 50% of the market. And the same is said about the cereal you eat (four companies control 85% of the market share) to the car you drive (59% by four companies).

Is it any surprise then, that the US has less choice, higher bills and slower internet? Or that 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

In a paradoxical manner, we have created this market that the more choice you have the less you are able to choose from.

Choice isn’t about which flavor of toothpaste but who made it.