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The Paradox of Choice: why more is not better [TEDTalk video]

Last updated 6 years ago

Per my Facebook post above, I tried to buy some new jeans the other day and was completely annoyed by the number of choices.  My buddy @StephenDuncan pointed out this excellent TEDTalks video by Barry Schwartz talking about the paradox of choice.  The core message is that in modern industrial society we believe that maximizing the welfare of citizens means maximizing freedom which means maximizing choice i.e. more choice = more freedom = better society.  The problem is that we've gone too far and have too much choice (too many toothpastes, salad dressings, mutual funds, health plans, restaurants, cellular plans and of course jeans) which is causing negative consequences.

  1. Analysis Paralysis:  Too much choice causes analysis paralysis - it becomes too difficult or too time consuming to choose. [this was me buying jeans]
  2. Opportunity Costs:  Too many choices cause you to recognize the opportunity costs and feel that you would have liked another option better. i.e. your purchases become less satisfying even if they were good.
  3. Escalation of Expectations:  With so many options we expect the final choice to be so good (perfect) that the reality can't match the expectation so you are less satisfied.

Have you ever felt this way..."everything was better back when everything was worse"?  I definitely have, especially given that all these choices in my life means I have even less of my precious free time.  Of course that's another paradox of choice since my iPhone enables me to get more work done but now every night I'm faced with the choice of work vs. family which causes dissatisfaction regardless of which I choose.


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