Wine and the Paradox of Choice
Have you ever walked down a supermarket aisle and been overwhelmed by the dozens of breakfast cereals, all claiming to give you the best start to the day, or 50 different shampoos, each promising to enhance your seemingly hopeless follicular condition?
The wealth of choice we are faced with in today’s consumer culture can be daunting and was the subject of psychologist Barry Schwartz’s much-debated 2004 book The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More. He claimed that choice is liberating – but only up to a certain point: “… as the number of choices grows… the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.”
Okay, even Schwartz admits that being tyrannized in the supermarket might be a step too far but, as a now-famous study of jam-purchasing behavior suggested, people are more likely to make a purchase when faced with a smaller array of products. While subsequent consumer research has struggled to corroborate Schwartz’s less-is-more theory, too much choice can be overwhelming.
Wine Searcher lists more than 6.8 million different wines. If you tried one wine a day, it would take 18,617 years to try them all and you’d then be well behind the times with each new vintage growing the list further. Surely the world doesn’t need so many wines? Even the biggest wine nerd with a liver of steel couldn’t get through them all. While such diversity of wine styles compels wine lovers, not every wine drinker shares the same sentiment. Many consumers see wine as nothing more than a relaxing treat following a long day at the office, or after the kids have gone to bed.
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