Boston Public Radio did a segment today promoting this weekend's episode of Innovation Hub http://blogs.wgbh.org/innovation-hub/, about how humans are affected by the number of options with which they are presented. Host Kara Miller discussed the academic research about the topic, which boils down to the counterintuitive fact that people do not like having a plethora of choices. She mentions a study of a typical fair/farmer's market vendor who offers samples of a large variety of homemade jams. Lots of people taste, but the percentage making a purchase is low. When there are only 6 choices, fewer people stop to sample, but the percentage who buy goes WAY up. She also says that a key factor in the success of Trader Joe's is that they have only about 20% of the variety in typical supermarkets, coupled with a reputation for quality product. Subconsciously, their customers like the lack of choice. Want pickles? You've only got 2-3 choices, on a small section of a single shelf; you pick one and move on. No milling around comparing a confounding array of jars. It's Prairie Home Companion's fictional Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery (motto: "If you can't get what you want here, you can probably get along without it."), in your local strip mall.
Innovation Hub is produced in Boston but carried on various public radio stations across America.