When choice is demotivating: can one desire too much of a good thing?

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000 Dec;79(6):995-1006. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.79.6.995.


Current psychological theory and research affirm the positive affective and motivational consequences of having personal choice. These findings have led to the popular notion that the more choice, the better-that the human ability to manage, and the human desire for, choice is unlimited. Findings from 3 experimental studies starkly challenge this implicit assumption that having more choices is necessarily more intrinsically motivating than having fewer. These experiments, which were conducted in both field and laboratory settings, show that people are more likely to purchase gourmet jams or chocolates or to undertake optional class essay assignments when offered a limited array of 6 choices rather than a more extensive array of 24 or 30 choices. Moreover, participants actually reported greater subsequent satisfaction with their selections and wrote better essays when their original set of options had been limited. Implications for future research are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Social Conformity