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Is Choice Demotivating?

Is choice Demotivating?

In our everyday lives, we encounter choices all the time. The choices we make define who we are but do we find it difficult when there are too many options to choose from? Is it just the case that theoretically we like to have many options but when it comes down to the reality of dealing with them and deciding, we become overwhelmed and wish our choices had been limited. Decision making can be difficult and there are many reasons as to why we suffer when making decisions. The first is happiness. We wish to make the decision based upon which will give us the most amount of happiness and are afraid of choosing anything less. Research has also found that people evaluate decision by missed opportunities instead of an opportunities potential. Too many choices can lead to “choice overload”. As the number of choices increase, the time and effort it takes to make the decision also increases. Furthermore, I will discuss the effect of choice on intrinsic motivation throughout this analysis. Firstly what is intrinsic motivation

A common believe held by society is that “more choice is better”. Iyengar & Lepper conducted 3 experiments to test this theory. The first study was conducted in a grocery store. Research assistants dressed up as shop employees and invited people to try a variety of jams. Over two, 5-hr experimental periods on 2 consecutive Saturdays, 754 shopper’s behaviours were observed. Out of the customers, 242 encountered the display when the extensive-choice booth was displayed and 260 encountered the limited-choice booth when on display. The aim of the study was to examine whether the number of options displayed affected consumer’s initial attraction to or subsequent purchase of the product. It is important to note that only one brand of jam was used to avoid clear differences in packaging as this may have an impact on choice. The results of their study suggest that the initial attractiveness of extensive choice does not reflect in subsequent purchasing behaviour. Nearly 30% of the consumers in the limited choice condition purchased a jar of jam in contrast to only 3% in the extensive-choice condition. The findings from this first study suggest that although at first extensive-choice can be appealing to customers, this does not result in subsequent purchasing behaviour.

Study 2 involved 191 University students. They had to watch a movie as a part of their course and were offered the chance to do extra-credit assignments and were subsequently given some instructions about the assignments. After reading them, students found themselves confronted by either 6 different essay topics (limited-choice condition) or 30 different essay topics (extensive-choice condition). Measures of the study were firstly the percentage of participants whose chose to write the essay. The second was the quality of the essays produced. The findings of this study accentuate those found in study 1. The results from both studies suggest that people seem to prefer to exercise their opportunity to choose in contexts where their choices were limited, and, in Study 2, they even performed better in the limited-choice condition.

The third and final study involved three-conditions. The participants were university students. 33 were assigned to the limited-choice condition; 34 in the extensive-choice condition and 64 in a no-choice condition. The test was similar of that to the first one and involved choice selection of chocolate. The measures of the study were: Participants initial satisfaction with the choosing process; their expectations concerning the choices they had made; their subsequent satisfaction with their sampled chocolates and their later purchasing behaviour. Results showed that participants in the limited choice condition were significantly more satisfied with their choice than the others. Small choice also had a big impact on purchasing behaviour. 48% were more likely to choose chocolates as compensation. No such evidence supported the hypothesis that the extensive-choice condition was more apt to suffice. When participants were asked about the number of choices given, those who encountered 30 chocolates in the extensive-choice said that there were “too many” compared to those who encountered 6 in the limited-choice condition and said that the number was “about right”.

Further studies such as that of which conducted by Zuckerman, Porac, Lathin, Smith & Deci, 1978, looked at the effect of choice on cognitive and affective engagement. The enhanced cognitive engagement hypothesis predicted that choice would increase cognitive engagement as measured by performance on a cognitive task such as a crossword puzzle or writing an essay. The enhanced affective engagement hypothesis predicted that choice would have a positive effect on effort and attitude. Experiment 1 showed that choice had no positive effect on attitude and effort. Experiment 2 showed that self-paced readers who were given a choice of how long to study spent less time and performed more poorly on cognitive measures then researcher-paced readers who did not have a choice. Measures of attitude indicated that positive affective engagement associated with choice of study time.

Collett (2015) wanted to see if providing choice during a math lesson to kindergarten students could increase their intrinsic motivation. In her study, she observed the behaviour of 23 kindergarten students during their independent math station before and after they were given activity choices. Students then completed a questionnaire to measure an increase in intrinsic motivation. It was found that students’ off-task behaviour significantly decreased after they had a choice regarding their math activity. Specifically, the off-task behaviour of students talking about topics other than math activity substantially decreased. This study shows how choice can be used in a positive fashion as well as looking at choice from a different viewpoint. Compared to the other studies spoken about where limited and extensive choice was tested this study gives participants an open choice and results in desirable behaviour. This may be because the students feel as if they are not being controlled and are acting out of their own free will. This arises the question of can this be applied in different situations other that in the education system as well as should this be applied more often?

In conclusion to the studies we have covered, a common finding is that we prefer our choices limited and often an extensive amount of choices can be stressful. There are different ways in which we can deal with a vast amount of choices. Firstly, you can figure out your goals and when making the decision choose the thing most relevant to what will help you achieve the desired success. If you are having trouble working out your goals, arrange them in terms of importance to you right now. Choice making is never easy, the key is not to overthink your options but to decide on them. Even if they prove to be wrong you should stick with them as no matter what you will learn from them and take something away from them. References

Collett, E (2015) You have a choice: The power of options in the Intrinsic Motivation of Kindergarten Students

Iyengar and Lepper (2000) Too much Choice

Zuckerman, Porac, Lathin, Smith & Deci, 1978

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I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.