Variety May Not be the Spice of Life

Speed dating was built on the principle that you can learn A LOT about someone in the first few minutes of meeting them. This is true. Even within 30 seconds we are pretty good at picking out the broad stuff, like if someone is extraverted or curious. This tells us if someone is a possible dating prospect.

In theory adding choice or variety to that process should lead to a better selection. When you meet a bunch of people you can raise your standards on what is important and you end up with a better choice.
It doesn’t happen this way.

Allison Lenton and Marco Francesconi just published a paper looking at how choice impacts our ability to select a prospective partner. They looked at 84 speed dating events where single men and women meet a bunch of prospective partners during a series of short mini-dates. At the end of the evening each person gets to pick out who they would like to exchange numbers with, and if both agree then they get each other’s contact information. Lenton and Francesconi found that having a lot of choice, and a lot of variety within your choices, leads you to making a worse decision, or even no decision at all. People who had greater variety in their choices (i.e., range in age, height, occupation, etc.) selected fewer people to meet and were less likely to want to meet the best prospect. The authors conclude that too much choice makes us confused and we end up doing nothing.

So perhaps less is more.

If you want to read more we dig deeper into this issue here

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