The Paradox of Choice in Relationships
When it comes to choosing who to form and develop a relationship with, you might think that being spoilt for choice is a good thing; surely having lots of great options to choose from is better than having just a few, isn’t it? Well, actually, no it isn’t, hence the reason you’ll often see the phrase ‘spoilt for choice’ defined in a negative way. For example, take this definition from the Cambridge dictionary, which describes being spoilt for choice as…to be unable to choose because there are so many possible good choices. I’m sure anybody who has experience of endlessly swiping on a dating app will be able to relate to this.
Choosing which relationships to pursue, especially romantic ones, can be overwhelming. With this in mind, read on to learn all about the “paradox of choice”, how it can impact your relationship choices and why telling someone there are plenty more fish in the sea is never good advice!
Paradox of choice meaning
The difficulty associated with being spoilt for choice taps into what is known as ‘the paradox of choice‘. Namely, the fact that although intuitively we may think that having lots of options makes it easier to choose the best one, it actually makes it more difficult. Why? Because too much choice is cognitively demanding. In other words, when faced with multiple options, it requires lots of mental effort to consider all the possibilities, which in turn can leave you unsure and unsatisfied with your final choice.
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still.”
-Professor Barry Schwartz
Why more choice is less
Choice, according to renowned American psychologist Barry Schwartz, “has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.” Schwartz sets out the evidence for this claim in his critically acclaimed book ‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less‘ .Such has been the interest in professor Schwartz’s research into the paradox of choice, his TED talk on the subject (which you can watch below) has been viewed over 17 million times!
Clearly then, the paradox of choice is a very real and deep rooted phenomenon. Indeed, we’ve known about its negative consequences for a very long time. As far back as the 14th century the French philosopher Jean Buridan observed that just like a donkey between two piles of hay, a person will delay their choice when presented with equally tempting options.
The sheer scale of choice within the modern world is staggering and numerous studies into the paradox of choice – also known as ‘choice overload‘ ‘the overchoice effect‘ and ‘the tyranny of choice‘ – have reported multiple adverse effects: These include, less motivation to commit to a choice, decreasing satisfaction with a choice made, and the reporting of negative emotions such as regret and disappointment.
How to make relationship choices easier
The paradox of choice applies just as much to relationship choices, so it should come as no surprise to learn that many people report indecision, anxiety and dissatisfaction when attempting to decide which relationships to pursue among a sea of opportunities. The simple fact is that relationship choices are less stressful when you have less of them to make.
That’s why here at Vera, we deliberately limit the number of matches our users receive. By following the science and responding to what we know about the consequences of too much choice; we aim to ensure that in the pursuit of meaningful relationships, the great choices our users face, are not only easy to make, but also – and most importantly – the right ones to make.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
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