A Redefinition of the Paradox of Choice

  • Michal Piasecki
  • Sean Hanna

Abstract

Barry Schwartz defined the paradox of choice as the fact that in western developed societies a large amount of choice is commonly associated with welfare and freedom but too much choice causes the feeling of less happiness, less satisfaction and can even lead to paralysis. The paradox of choice has been recognized as one of the major sources of mass confusion in context of the B2C online mass customization. We propose to redefine the paradox of choice with an emphasis on the meaning of choice in conjunction with the amount of available options, rather than just the quantity of choice. We propose that it is the lack of meaningful choice, rather than an overwhelming amount of choice, that can cause customers’ feelings of decreased happiness, decreased satisfaction and paralysis. We further propose that since users themselves are often not able to explicitly define what constitutes a meaningful choice, the task they face belongs to the category of ill-defined problems. The challenge for mass customization practitioners is thus not to limit the scope of choice, as has been suggested in previous literature, but to provide users with choice that is relevant to them. We further discuss two computational approaches to solving problems related to the redefined paradox of choice in the context of the B2C mass customization. The first is based on recommender systems and the second is an implementation of artificial selection in genetic algorithms. We present findings of an empirical comparison of genetic algorithm and parametric product configurators. We find that the genetic algorithm tools, which allow users to move through a solution space by recognition of meaningful options rather than their definition, appear to be more popular among the users when it comes to browsing through solution spaces with larger number of dimensions.

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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michal Piasecki
    • 1
  • Sean Hanna
    • 1
  1. 1.University College LondonUK

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