Dating choice overload: why we stay single

Have you ever wandered around a supermarket, pondering awkwardly long about what to choose for dinner? Or did you ever find yourself staring excessively long at the potato chips shelf? The Choice Overload theory states that having too many options cripples our decision-making skills. This is also termed: the paradox of choice.

Nowadays we are more connected than ever. Family, friends and even potential lovers are just a click away. Tinder, Happn and The Inner Circle are just a few of the booming dating apps. Tinder alone currently has over 50 million active users. This means we all have the freedom to pick up our phone and spot a potential date. It gives us a chance to assess and compare all of our date-options. JACKPOT!

Yet, the number of singles is at its all-time high.
The number of singles in the U.S. has been growing non-stop since the 60’s. 50,2% of the adults are single in the U.S.

Yes, growing female independence plays a major role in this. But perhaps there is more to the story. Could there be a connection with the paradox of choice theory?
Simply put: do we have too many options? Are we just too aware of all the fish in the pond by being on all the dating apps? 

Research shows that when people need to make a decision in large choice situations they feel more joy and responsibility for their choice, compared to low choice situations. Yet, they also have a bigger chance of feeling regret after they made their decision. Why? More options lead to more cognitive dissonance because it increases the likelihood that the person made the wrong decision.
So although more options seem appealing initially, having less options leads to increased satisfaction and a reduced chance of regret.
This phenomena occurs when many equivalent choices are available. Weighing all potential risks and outcomes becomes so mentally draining that a person rather not makes a choice at all!
Time pressure even enhances this effect: decision-making becomes more difficult with less time. This means that it might even be harder to make a date-choice when you feel pressured by time.

The good news is, we can take action to turn this choice overload effect around.

1. Get some advice
It turns out that family makes the best choices regarding a potential partner. Don’t hesitate to get their opinion. You will have a higher chance of meeting a life partner via family than through friends.

2. Be original
As mentioned, the Choice Overload effect occurs when many equivalent choices are available.
Most online dating profiles consist of 2 or 3 pictures and a somewhat witty tagline.
Make sure to not become an ‘equivalent choice’. Stand out. Be original. Show yourself, before you are swiped left.

3. Go offline
Downsize your options by deleting all your dating apps.
Back in the olden days you would marry your neighborhood crush or prom date. Give it a go and see who you meet, or have already met, offline.