The Paradox of Choice

TOO MANY CHOICES?

Although architect Mies Van Der Rohe was initially responsible for the mantra “less is more,” the phrase eventually escaped the confines of design and has been adopted for everything from decluttering businesses to beer ads. Even psychologists grabbed on to it, most notably when an economic study found that overwhelming consumers with choices was detrimental to sales. Albeit, they flipped it around to “more is less.”

Known as the “paradox of choice,” the more-is-less theory in psychology was born when researchers presented a selection of jams and enticed shoppers to buy a jar. In one scenario, six jams were presented for the shoppers to choose from; in another, 24 varieties were offered. The larger display attracted more shoppers, but the smaller selection led to 10 times more purchases.

The theory was cemented with psychologist Barry Schwartz’ book, “The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less.” In the book, Schwartz argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers; and this has been the widely held theory for some time now.

BUT, IS IT TRUE?

This dynamic of choices occurs to us constantly. There are so many choices for everything that it makes it difficult to choose anything. Have you ever seen the Cheesecake Factory menu? You could watch an entire football game in less time than it would take to read the food options. This is what the market believes we want, more choices, yet the more choices we have the more time we waste pouring through options that are not useful.

In architecture this is extremely evident. We have too many choices for every building product out there. Trying to narrow down these choices for clients is an art in itself. At times it’s a bit like eating out with children. “Timmy, you can have the hot dog or the mac-n-cheese.” We must narrow down the choices for them in some respects. Not that they’re intellectually inferior, but it’s otherwise overwhelming and impossible to choose. It’s like trying to drink out of a fire hose.

As architects we spend a lot of time reading and learning about new products so we can provide our clients the most valuable information to make a decision. We are also constantly educating ourselves to the changes in the choices for how to assemble a building.

Henry Ford: “any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

TRUST YOUR ARCHITECT

Building a new home is possibly one of the most exciting, but also one of the most difficult things you will do in your life. Trust plays a vital role when starting up a project. You hired an architect because you realized that you can’t design and build a house on your own…there are just too many choices to make. So – trust your architect to use their experience to make the best recommendations for the best solutions on your project. If you don’t trust them, not only do you slow the process down, but you might cause a relationship breakdown. Give your architect the freedom to work and give you the best outcome of that work. All of their experience means they have been around the block enough to know what the best next step is for you. Listen to them. You’ll appreciate it in the long run.

By | 2017-05-12T20:08:03+00:00 December 9th, 2015|Architecture, Design, Inspiration|Comments Off on The Paradox of Choice