Tackling scarcity: can we have too much choice?

If we are faced with simple and limited choices, we may make careful decisions based on a number of criteria: in other words, we will identify various characterisitics we are looking for and see how well the various alternative products or activities meet our criteria. When we have lots of choice, however, we may be less careful or get confused.

In this Guardian podcast, the panelists discuss complex choices between many products and/or characteristics. Are people being ‘rational’ when making such choices? Is being less careful simply a rational use of scarce time? Do people really want lots of choice or would they prefer more limited choice? Can experiments where people are given choices help us to understand how people choose and how much choice businesses or government should give people? Then there is the question of producers/suppliers of products. Does choice promote competition and product development and is there an optimum amount of choice to achieve this?

The Business: Choice Guardian Podcasts, Sheena Iyengar, Julian Glover and Andrew Lilico in conversation with Aditya Chakrabortty (1/9/10)


  1. Are people ‘rational’ when they make choices? For what reasons may they not be rational?
  2. Can you make rational choices if your information is imperfect?
  3. Is there an optimum amount of choice and how would you set about establishing that optimum?
  4. How useful are experiments in understanding the process of choice? What are the weaknesses of such experiments?
  5. Should people be limited in the amount of choice they are given over medical treatment and schools?
  6. What are the advantages to other people of giving people more choice?
  7. How much does culture influence our attitudes towards choice?