Research published in Biology Letters shows that people confronted with too many choices have difficulty making a good decision. The study analyses over 3,700 human dating descisons across 84 speed-dating events. The study found that when the numnber of variable attributes increases (ie heigh, occupation, education background), people made fewer dating proposals. The effect was even stronger as the number of potential partners increased.
Another study shows that when participants in a dating study are given more potential partners, their emotional satisfaction is not higher than when presented with fewer options. Other studies have shows that more options cripple a people to not make any decision at all. Consumer studies show that when given limited options, consumers make a purchasing decison, and are happier with the limited set of options.
When given large numbers of options, humans and other animals tend to rely on heuristics that help guide decision making. These rules of thumb help to reduce and simplify the decision making proceess by ignoring some information. We tend to default to quick, easy, and recognizable options. We can decide the appeal of a face in 13 milliseconds.
So with fewer options, people make quicker decisions. With more options, people fallback to heuristics to help simplify the decision making process.
p-prim — the more options, the better
conceptual design — use should be able to make quick, good decisions
interaction design — reduce the number of options available