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"[Overchoice takes place when] the advantages of diversity and individualization are canceled by the complexity of buyer's decision-making process."

— From Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1971

Overchoice, also referred to as "choice overload",[1] is a term describing a problem facing consumers in the postindustrial society: too many choices.[2] The term was first introduced by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book, Future Shock.[2][3][4][5][6]

Overchoice is the result of technological progress. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, each year, more and more products are being offered.[3][4] Consumers have more disposable income to spend, and producers can more easily and cheaply introduce product variations.[3]

Having more choices, on the surface, appears to be a positive development; however it hides an underlying problem: faced with too many choices, consumers have trouble making optimal choices, and thus as a result can be indecisive, unhappy, and even refrain from making the choice (purchase) at all.[3][5][7][8] Alvin Toffler noted that as the choice turns to overchoice, "freedom of more choices" ironically becomes the opposite—the "unfreedom". Often, a customer makes a decision without sufficiently researching his choices, which may often require days.[7] When confronted with a plethora of choices without perfect information, many people prefer to make no choice at all, even if making a choice would lead to a better outcome.

Existence of overchoice, both perceived and real, was confirmed by studies as early as the mid-1970s.[3][7] Numbers of various brands, from soaps to cars, have been steadily rising for over half a century.[7] In just one example—different brands of soap and detergents—the numbers of choices offered by an average US supermarket went from 65 in 1950, through 200 in 1963, to over 360 in 2004. The more choices one has, the slower one is to make decisions.[7]

Opposites of overchoice (sometimes referred to as underchoice) include standardization.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Whitmore, 2001, http://www-psych.stanford.edu/
  2. ^ a b Thomas W. Simon, Democracy and Social Injustice: Law, Politics, and Philosophy, Rowman & Littlefield, 1995, ISBN 0-8476-7938-1, Google Print, p.143
  3. ^ a b c d e Robert B. Settle, Linda L. Golden, "CONSUMER PERCEPTIONS: OVERCHOICE IN THE MARKET PLACE", Advances in Consumer Research Volume 01, eds. Scott Ward and Peter Wright, : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 29-37, online
  4. ^ a b Robert B. Tucker, Driving Growth Through Innovation: How Leading Firms are Transforming Their Futures, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-57675-187-2, Google Print, p.178-179
  6. ^ Alvin Toffler biography at Institute For Strategic Thinking and Technology Development
  7. ^ a b c d e f Ilona Boniwell, Positive Psychology in a Nutshell: A Balanced Introduction to the Science of Optimal Functioning, Personal Well-Being Centre, 2006, ISBN 0-9548387-8-5, Google Print, p.74-75
  8. ^ Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. (2000). When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 995-1006.

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