When More Is Less: The Paradox Of Choice In Search Engine Use

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Published In

Proceedings Of The 32nd International ACM SIGIR Conference On Research And Development In Information Retrieval


In numerous everyday domains, it has been demonstrated that increasing the number of options beyond a handful can lead to paralysis and poor choice and decrease satisfaction with the choice. Were this so-called paradox of choice to hold in search engine use, it would mean that increasing recall can actually work counter to user satisfaction if it implies choice from a more extensive set of result items. The existence of this effect was demonstrated in an experiment where users (N=24) were shown a search scenario and a query and were required to choose the best result item within 30 seconds. Having to choose from six results yielded both higher subjective satisfaction with the choice and greater confidence in its correctness than when there were 24 items on the results page. We discuss this finding in the wider context of "choice architecture"--that is, how result presentation affects choice and satisfaction.


Search engines, relevance judgments, satisfaction, user interfaces

Published By

ACM Press


M. Sanderson

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