Being spoilt for choice can paralyse you

May 11th, 2009 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Britney Spears London, May 11 (IANS) In an age of untrammelled consumerism, being spoilt for choice can have a paralysing effect.
Google provides almost 100 million results on ‘Britney Spears’. The sheer mountain of numbers can overwhelm users, according to the latest research.

People are more satisfied with their choice when they are only given a few items. For example, consumers are more likely to be satisfied if they have to choose one out of six kinds of jams, rather than one out of the 24 on display.

Researchers at Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT) showed that Internet search engine users get overwhelmed with an increasing number of results.

Antti Oulasvirta and Janne Hukkinen at HIIT, Finland and Barry Schwartz at Swarthmore College, US, ran an experiment where 24 participants did normal information search tasks with Google.

Half of the trials were done with 24 items on a page, and the rest with six items on a page.

Having to choose from six results yielded both higher subjective satisfaction with the choice and greater confidence in its correctness than when there were 24 on the results page.

The implication of the research to search engine design is that there are situations and users who might benefit from a reduced set of result items.

The results of the study are going to be presented in July at SIGIR, the flagship conference of the information retrieval community, said a HIIT release.

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