Too Many Options (Hick’s Law)

Hick’s law is a psychological principle which states that the more options are available to a person, the longer it will take for him or her to make a decision about which option is best. Hick’s law is also sometimes referred to as the Hick-Hyman law.

Use Hick’s Law when response times are critical. It applies to any simple decision making with multiple options. This is especially important in control system environments. When things go wrong and alarms are triggered users need to be able to make quick decisions. When response time is critical keep the choices to a minimum. It will speed up the decision making.

On the other hand, Hick’s Law does not apply to complex decision making. If decisions are requiring extensive reading, researching, or extended deliberation, Hick’s Law prediction will fail. It only applies to simple quick decisions in appropriate context.

The time it takes a user to finish her task increases with the number of available options.

Humans are strange. We like to say we want as much options as possible. When we get them…we get confused and can’t take a decision.

Summing-up: Hick’s Law (or the Hick-Hyman Law) states that the more stimuli (or choices) users face, the longer it will take them to make a decision.

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