The psychology of giving nothing

Psychology of giving nothing

Choice is good. But as our grandmas no doubt reminded us, there can be too much of a good thing. When humans are confronted with too many choices, their decision-making faculties deteriorate. This is known as decision fatigue, the paradox of choice or the toothpaste trance — that glazed-over feeling we get when we stare at a wall of toothpaste options trying to decipher which will give us the most pearly whites.

The study “The Psychology of Doing Nothing” by researcher Christopher Anderson showed that decision fatigue can lead people to avoid making a decision entirely, a phenomenon he called decision avoidance.

The rule of single call to action

There is a golden rule of conversion optimization that correlates with decision avoidance: only have one call to action.

This rule means that any of your direct response promotions — email, Facebook post, response device, landing page — should only ever ask the reader to do one thing: give a gift, sign up for the newsletter, request more information.

Even within those options, choices should be limited. Only have one giving opportunity on a donation landing page. Only have one newsletter to sign up for.


What do you want them to do?

The best way to avoid decision avoidance is to set clear objectives for each of your promotions and stick to them. Ask yourself a simple question: What do I want them to do? Focus each call to action on that one thing, and you’ll see your response go up.