Deciphering Culture

Thinking about Research — Short Takes (2)

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The paradoxes of choice overload — another installment of Kyle Bylin’s series on the paradoxes of choice overload of cultural products (on Music Think Tank). The article uses the I-Pod as an example and applies choice theory to the analysis and how the I-Pod can make “maximizers” miserable and turn “optimicizers” into maximizers. [A short excerpt below]

Savor Your Music: The Effect of Abundance in Culture

III.     Overloaded With Choice

As you might guess, fans who exhibit the tendency to maximize their music experiences are also those who are the most susceptible to the paradoxes of choice overload.  When a fan is overwhelmed by the number of songs on their iPod; it will be easier for them to regret a choice if the alternatives are plentiful than if they were scarce, especially if the alternatives are so plentiful that not all of them could be investigated.  This makes it easy for them to imagine that they could’ve made a different choice that would’ve been better.  All the imagined alternatives then, induce the fan to regret the decision they made, and this regret subtracts from the satisfaction they get out of the decision they made, even if it was agood song.  It is, however, not the best song.  To consider the attractiveness of the alternative songs that they rejected causes them to become less satisfied with the one they’ve chosen, leading them to keep scrolling through their iPod.  The more songs they consider, these missed opportunities add up, and collectively diminish the amount of satisfaction they get out of the chosen alternative.

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