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The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less Paperback – January 18, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Like Thoreau and the band Devo, psychology professor Schwartz provides ample evidence that we are faced with far too many choices on a daily basis, providing an illusion of a multitude of options when few honestly different ones actually exist. The conclusions Schwartz draws will be familiar to anyone who has flipped through 900 eerily similar channels of cable television only to find that nothing good is on. Whether choosing a health-care plan, choosing a college class or even buying a pair of jeans, Schwartz, drawing extensively on his own work in the social sciences, shows that a bewildering array of choices floods our exhausted brains, ultimately restricting instead of freeing us. We normally assume in America that more options ("easy fit" or "relaxed fit"?) will make us happier, but Schwartz shows the opposite is true, arguing that having all these choices actually goes so far as to erode our psychological well-being. Part research summary, part introductory social sciences tutorial, part self-help guide, this book offers concrete steps on how to reduce stress in decision making. Some will find Schwartz's conclusions too obvious, and others may disagree with his points or find them too repetitive, but to the average lay reader, Schwartz's accessible style and helpful tone is likely to aid the quietly desperate.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Who woulda thunk it? Here we are, in the early years of the twenty-first century, being driven bonkers by the staggering array of consumer goods from which we must choose. Choosing something as (seemingly) simple as shampoo can force us to wade through dozens, even hundreds, of brands. We are, the author suggests, overwhelmed by choice, and that's not such a good thing. Schwartz tells us that constantly being asked to make choices, even about the simplest things, forces us to "invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, and dread." There comes a point, he contends, at which choice becomes debilitating rather than liberating. Did I make the right choice? Can I ever make the right choice? It would be easy to write off this book as merely an extended riff on that well-worn phrase "too much of a good thing," but that would be a mistake. Despite a tendency toward highfalutin language ("the counterfactuals we construct can be tilted upward"), Schwartz has plenty of insightful things to say here about the perils of everyday life. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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As a society, we love choice. Specifically, we love the freedom of choice, however in order to have choice you need more options. Therefore, we equate our freedom with the number of options we have. But when we look closer, our supposed freedom is paralyzing us. “Increased choice…may impair freedom by taking time and energy we’d be better off devoting to other matters.”
I highly recommend this work.
The only thing you need to remember is that the human brain cannot handle the abundance of choices we have in our daily lives.
The answer, in my opinion, is KISS. Keep it simple, st***d.
The author contends that it's crucial for us to feel like we're in control, but in the face of so many options, is the process of selection back-firing on us?
Schwartz contends that it is. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, the author shows how the dramatic explosion of choice--from the mundane to the profound--has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. He tells the story of how he used to be able to go into a store and just get a pair of jeans. Being one to wear his jeans until they fall apart, he finally went to the store to get a new pair. A salesperson walked up to him and asked him if she could help. "I want a pair of jeans--32-38", he said. She proceeds to ask him if he wants them slim fit, easy fit, relaxed fit, baggy, or extra baggy? Stonewashed, acid-washed, or distressed? Buttton-fly or zipper fly? Faded or regular?
He was stunned. He sputtered that he just wanted regular jeans...you know, the kind that used to be the only kind? Schwartz then begins a mission to find out the range of choice for Americans. He goes on to list some pretty eye-opening statistics. For example, in his local supermarket, he found 285 varieties of cookies. Just the chocolate-chip cookies alone had 21 options! At his local electronics store, he counted 85 different telephones, not including cell phones. Even shopping for colleges has become an intellectual shopping mall.
And speaking of malls, did you know that Americans go to shopping centers about once a week, more often than they go to houses of worship? American now has more shopping centers than high schools. However, when asked to rank the pleasure they get from various activities, grocery shopping ranks next to last, and other shopping fifth from the bottom.
People are shopping more, but enjoying it less. But why? If they do enjoy it less, why do they keep doing it? This is the crux of the book, where Schwartz cites fascinating studies including Why Choice Is Demotivating. He also examines why it is that the excitement of purchasing new items seems to wear off so fast, and why we sometimes actually feel badly about our choices. For one, humans are adaptive. "Familiarity breeds contempt", as the old adage goes. But it's also the fact that we second guess ourselves after a purchase, mulling what we could have chosen, as well as asking ourselves if we really chose "the best".
Choosing "the best" is a trait of maximizers. Schwartz says that maximizers tend to be less happy than satisficers. Satisficers are those who choose with the mindset of "good enough". But because America is a culture where many seek "the best" and compare their choices and lifestyle with their neighbors and media standards, most of us are maximizers.
What are some of the qualities of a maximizer?
1. Maximizers engage in more product comparisons than satisficers, both before and after they make purchasing decisions.
2. Maximizers take longer than satisficers to decide on a purchase.
3. Maximizers spend more time than satisficers comparing their purchasing decisions to the decisions of others.
4. Maximizers are more likely to experience regret after a purchase.
5. Maximizers are more likely to spend time thinking about hypothetical alternatives to the purchases they've made.
6. Maximizers generally feel less positive about their purchasing decisions.
7. Maximizers savor positive events less than satisficers and do not cope as well (by their own admission) with negative events.
8. After something bad happens to them, maximizers' sense of well-being takes longer to recover.
9. Maximizers tend to brood or ruminate more than satisficers.
Is it any wonder that we buy more, but enjoy less? What drew me to this book was because I knew that I was the type of person that obsessed over purchases, taking forever to select an item. I used to be so indecisive at a restaurant, taking 20 minutes to figure out what I wanted! What am I in the mood for? How will I feel when I eat it? What's the tastiest thing I could order? I'm much better than I was, but still... I also noticed the trend to second guess many of my purchasing decisions and wondering if I could "do better".
So when I read about this book in Parade magazine, I ordered it from Amazon.com. The great thing about this book is that Schwartz synthesizes current research, and shows how eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He even offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on those that are important and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices we have to make.
Oh, and I picked my new dryer rather easily. I knew I wanted an interior light, a manual dial, large capacity, and a signal to let me know when the clothes were done. However, my husband kept standing there with a "deer in the headlights" look. (And finally agreed with my choice.)
Do you think locking him in our bathroom with this book might help? Not a lotta choices in there, after all...