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The Paradox of Choice Why More Is Less MOBI Í The

About the Book The Paradox of Choice In the spirit of Alvin Tofflers Future Shock a social critique of our obsession with choice and how it contributes to anxiety dissatisfaction and regret Whether we're buying a pair of jeans ordering a cup of coffee selecting a long distance carrier applying to college choosing a doctor or setting up a 401K everyday decisions have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented In The Paradox of Choice Barry Schwartz explains why too much of a good thing has proven detrimental to our psychological and emotional well being In accessible engaging and anecdotal prose Schwartz explains how a culture that thrives on the availability of constantly evolving options can also foster profound dissatisfaction and self blame in individuals which can lead to a paralysis in decision making and in some cases depression With the latest studies on how we make choices in our personal and professional lives Schwartz offers practical advice on how to focus on the right choices and how to derive greater satisfaction from choices that we do make About the Author Barry Schwartz Barry Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarth College He is the author of several books including The Battle for Human Nature Science Morality and Modern Life and The Costs of Living How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life His articles have appeared in many of the leading journals in his field including the American Psychologist He lives in Philadelphia PA


10 thoughts on “The Paradox of Choice Why More Is Less

  1. says:

    Maybe I don't read enough Psychology but I thought this book was fantastic Swarth Psychology professor Barry Schwartz's basic thesis is that the world is divided into two types of person maximizers who want to find the absolute best option and satisficers who want to find something that is good enough and not worry that something better might be out there He also links maximizing to the high and increasing incidence of clinical depression in the developed world and believes that satisficing is the best option for coping in a world in which we are overwhelmed with choiceHe also introduces a bunch of other interesting topicsHedonic Adaptation Whatever we enjoy and that makes us happy we will adapt to and thus derive less pleasure from in subsequent experiences The law of diminishing returns restated in psychological termsSatisfaction Treadmill We also become adapted to a certain level of satisfaction so that once we have experienced a certain level of satisfaction a previous level of satisfaction will actually make us less happy than before This is apparently not very well developed research which is how I felt about itChoosing Choice Individuals will always choose to have options I'd rather have 30 types of wine to choose from rather than 6 but are actually made happier when there are less options In the previous example those presented with only 6 options were far likely to buy than those presented with 30 and they also experienced far higher satisfaction with their purchase This is the behavior that leads to the overwhelming range of options we face in modern life Another interesting example 65% of people who didn't have cancer said that if they got it they would want to choose their treatment of those who actually had cancer 88% said they would not prefer to choose In other words our perception of what we would want from a choice standpoint is not the same thing as what we actually want when we get thereThe Peak End Rule of Satisfaction Our satisfaction with an experience is defined by two key components the peak of the experience good or bad and the end of the experience good or bad So a mediocre vacation with an amazing peak and conclusion will be remembered in retrospect as satisfying than a vacation that was consistently good but never great Daniel KahnemanSalience and Availability When making decisions the salience how conspicuous or vivid a data point is and availability of our situation matters greatly This is why people judge murders and airline crashes to be far common causes of death than traffic accidents and strokes we hear far about the former two and in far graphic terms than we do about the latter People were far affected by a video testimonial even when warned in advance that this was a highly atypical case than they were by a solid set of research dataFraming and Anchoring What your anchor point is for a decision matters People are much happier getting a discount for paying cash than they are paying a surcharge for using a credit card This is because our satisfaction is not derived in a linear manner 200 is not twice as good as 100 the resultant satisfaction drops off Once again the law of diminishing returns but related to satisfaction Here's a great set of questions 1 Would you rather have 100 or the option to flip a coin to get 200 on heads or nothing on tails? 2 Would you rather lose 100 or have the option to flip a coin and lose 200 on heads or nothing on tails? From an economics standpoint there should be no difference in any of these options but 95% of respondents choose the sure 100 because 200 is not twice as good as 100 from a satisfaction standpoint and they choose the option to flip for the 200 loss or nothing because a 200 loss is not twice as bad as a 100 loss Pretty trippy I've tried this with a bunch of folks and everyone seems to answer according to this patternSunk Costs People have a hard time letting go of sunk costs from a satisfaction standpoint Say you have bought tickets to see a good music group but then a horrible snowstorm hits and you will have to walk to get there and you hate the cold From an economics standpoint the money you paid for the tickets is already gone so you should just make your decision about whether or not to go based on how happy you think your decision will make you But people have a very hard time accepting this and are likely to follow a course that will make them unhappy because they already spent the moneyRegret Maximizers are far likely to experience regret than satisficers because they are always susceptible to learning at a later date that a decision they made was actually not the absolute best choice they could have made Not surprisingly regret is highly correlated with unhappiness and depression The author speculates that the large number of maximizers in the general population is related to the fact that we are evolutionarily ill equipped to deal with the range of choice we face today and that this was a far useful personality trait prior to the last several hundred years Schwartz says that there are two main factors that affect regret 1 Do we consider ourselves to have personal responsibility for the result I crashed the car vs I was blindsided 2 Can we imagine a counterfactual alternative I could have worked harder in college to get a better job vs the economy is horrible and no one is making any moneyLearned Helplessness In a somewhat disturbing series of experiments Martin Seligman showed that you can teach rats to learn how to not adapt to environmental changes that harm them electric shocks in this case This concept of learned helplessness is common in unhappy and depressed people and is largely based on what we attribute our successes or failures to Depression and Social Networks A society that lauds autonomy also maybe unintentionally encourages the dissolution of social networks which are one of the best defenses against depression because they prescribe all sorts of constraints for us that limit the range of choices we have to make Reversible Decisions People generally prefer to have the option to undo or reverse a decision such as a purchase but in actuality we end up less satisfied with a reversible decision than an irreversible decision The author speculates that this is part of the issue with divorce rates marriage is now of a reversible decision than in the past and other social issues we face He suggests that we can find greater satisfaction in life by accepting some decisions as irreversible even if society tells us otherwiseEvaluating an Experience We evaluate experiences on four dimensions1 Comparing the experience to what we hoped it would be2 Comparing the experience to what we expected it would be3 Comparing the experience to other experiences we have had in the past4 Comparing the experience to experiences have had