I don't see the contradiction here between:
- Too many choices being bad - overwhelming customers.
- And too few choices being bad - choice always needs to be discernibly relative.
The meta-study (Scheibehenne, et-al - 2010), to which the article presumably refers, appears to have been rather dumb: simply averaging the outcomes of the ~60 studies done in this area, selected from the previous decade, so that the two separate effects cancel each other out. In fact, the spread of study results lean pretty equally in either direction (picture, right). So the Atlantic article misleads by pitting a single, famous (Jam) study against "...10 different experiments... finding very little evidence that variety caused any problems,..".
Of course I didn't read the whole study paper, and might well not appreciate the intricacies of statistical significance, even if I had. But then I've not read Barry Schwart's book either, so this is just the ignorant rumblings of some guy on the internet who's read an article and watched a snack-sized pop-lecture (quite a while ago):
What's doesn't seem to have been studied is the cultural phenomenon of spawning entirely new product markets, by gradually expanding established ranges. I strongly suspect that new economic ecosystems will monopolise a greater percentage of customer's attention and therefore spending resources. Promoting choice inflation (via biased reporting, for example) could be seen as a kind of capitalist control conspiracy: keeping a populace busy working all hours to buy more s...stuff, they don't really need. But I'd lay the blame squarely at the door of humanities's slavery to memes.