You know, about the time I realized that we were already four years into the US Mint’s ten year program of releasing five state quarters a year, I also concluded too much choice can really mess you up. Convenience stores along the Indiana toll road have six full sections of soft drink options. An October 2009 Netcraft website survey tallied up 230,443,449 websites. Bruce Springsteen rather famously cited fifty-seven channels and nothing on, but that was back in the dark ages of 1992. Today he’d be off at least by a factor of ten.
Too much choice can paralyze people. It’s why so many of us use news and content aggregators to try to corral the vast internet into something usable. It’s why high end clothing stores never feature racks of clothing. And it well might explain why Roper insists 92% of our purchase decisions are driven by recommendation. In a world of endless options, searching for the very best of anything can lead to an awful lot of spinning.
The graph above, which I first noticed on Buzzfeed after they picked it up from a charmingly offbeat blog called weathersealed, slams home the notion of too-much-choice in living color. The ever-splintering shades chart the chronological expansion of Crayola colors, from the original eight in 1903 to today’s 120 shades. If this doesn’t blow your mind, your world is too black and white. I mean, just look at all those purples.
I would make some crack about today’s kids having it so easy. But honestly, I’m not sure that’s true.