Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why Too Many Options Can Affect How You Shop

‘Your Brain on Shopping’ dives into the paradox of choice.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Pop over to Zara’s website, and you’ll find over 20 categories of clothing to sift through — in the women’s section alone. Each category then contains hundreds of products. Want a T-shirt? You have literally 925 options. And that’s just one retailer out of the countless online fashion sites at your digital fingertips.

Choice: It’s what we think we want, especially when we shop. But it can actually make things more difficult. Most people take for granted that “the more choice people have, the better off they are,” says psychologist Barry Schwartz, famed author of The Paradox of Choice.

But too many choices for one decision can be “too much of a good thing,” says Schwartz. Hence the paradox: Instead of being “liberated” by a large array of choices, we can be “paralyzed” by them. That makes us less likely to make a choice at all, walking away without a purchase; or if we do choose, we may be more likely to make a bad selection or be less satisfied in the long-run with our choice.

Which has serious implications at a time when fast fashion websites stock over 85,000 clothing items at a time.

Follow Racked on YouTube for more videos | Like Racked on Facebook to never miss a video