In a previous installment of Psyched for the Weekend, I covered the paradox of choice. Basically, the premise is that more isn’t necessarily better. It’s just different. While generally people like having options, it’s possible that having too many choices backfires. And it can lead you to feel less satisfied with whatever it is you end up choosing.
In that article I explored the implications of this for a polyamorous person (or as an ambiamorous one, which is a more precise term for what I am) and particularly when it comes to abundance and scarcity mindsets.
But the implications of paradox of choice are many and are seen in many facets of modern life, even among the strictly monogamous.
For example, it’s an interesting filter to look through re: online dating.
As someone who dated a lot before online dating existed and then has occasionally gone back to it (confession: I despise online dating) from time to time, I’ve often thought about paradox of choice as a possible factor in all of it.
In normal situations, when simply meeting people the way I used to, via friends of friends, there were far fewer options available to me. I did like how easy it was to get a good glimpse of someone in online dating from well-written, clear profiles. I was able to select people that seemed to be compatible with me, rather than relying on our having things in common because we knew some of the same people. (Or occasionally because we were set up by friends who thought we’d hit it off).
But then again I did find that when online dating, I was often overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities.
Was paradox of choice affecting my online dating experience?
It turns out researchers have studied just that.
Not Paradox of Choice, but Rejection Mindset
A recent study simulated a dating app very much like Tinder — where users were presented with one dating profile at a time and asked to accept or reject this potential match.
They then analyzed participant behavior and found the following:
- The researchers found that paradox of choice didn’t explain increased rates of rejection. Rejection rate wasn’t related to how many choices available to participants.
- Instead, rejection rates were increased based on how many profiles had been rejected already, suggesting a rejection mindset had formed.
- A rejection mindset set in relatively early on, on average after about 12 profiles.
- Consistent with previous research, women were more likely to reject male suitors than the other way around.
- Additionally, women were more likely to quickly slip into a rejection mindset than men.
Basically, if you reject enough people, it’s easy to think new matches are going to suck and reject them (even if you might have initially accepted them).
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.