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  • Writer's pictureJonathan E. Pearl

Those darn Jammy Dodgers

It you're anything like me you hate choosing your menu options when you're in a restaurant serving lots of food that you really love. I just hate making up my mind, for fear of missing out. And invariably someone else at my table orders something that looks so much more appetising than what I have chosen.

A 2000 study by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper set up a tasting booth of jams in an up-market delicatessen. On one weekend, shoppers were able to taste six different jams. On another weekend, shoppers were offered 24 jams to taste. All the jams were available for purchase on both weekends.

The larger selection of jams attracted more people to the tasting table, though the number of jams people tasted was about the same both weekends. But the most surprising result of the study: 30% of shoppers exposed to six types of jam bought a jar, but only 3% of those exposed to 24 types did so.

People actually welcomed fewer rather than more choices!

This holds true in mediation and negotiation, where offering a limited number of options can be much more effective than offering "too many" choices.

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