The Paradox of CHOICE

Brett Sparks • Sarah Elizabeth Myers • Jacob Morelli

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In America's modern society, the average consumer is presented with the problem of “choice overload” causing a negative impact on our nation's mood...
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Schwartz's Vocabulary

Maximizer– A consumer who feels the need to examine all possible options before selecting the best choice, is a person more likely to feel regret after a purchase


Satisficer– A consumer who sets criteria for themselves, will most likely feel more satisfied after a purchase by not looking back at the "what could've been"


Opportunity Costs– "The loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen"– Merriam-Webster, 2015


Choosing– Selecting an option based on the evaluation of your goals


Picking– Selecting an option while having too little time or too many options to accurately decide which option is the best

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Is more really less?

In The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, longtime professor of Social Theory and Social Action Barry Schwartz discusses "[h]ow the culture of abundance robs us of satisfaction." His argument convinces American readers that while they live in the land of freedom, the social pressure of choosing "right" makes us unhappier about our "better" selections. The development of Schwartz's philosophy has evolved over the years as new theories proven by detailed experiments arise; he discusses this change over time as well. The Paradox of Choice leaves readers speculating the market, advertisements, and even their own life decisions.
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Schwartz's Theory

Schwartz hypothesizes that the more choices a person is presented, the lower an individual’s happiness is. When given choices up to a certain point, people appreciate and are happy with these options. When people are given too many of choices, or what is known as choice overload, people find that there are negative impacts to their mood level and an increase in their regret for the opportunities that they missed.

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Academic Book Review

The freedom to choose is not often a privilege we think about. The variety of choices and options to draw from in today’s American society are truly overwhelming at points, while it should be making our nation feel great and positively stand out. But Barry Schwartz, on the other hand, begs to differ on such conventional claims in The Paradox of Choice.


There are four main parts in Schwartz discusses. These four parts cover the “what"s, “how"s, and “why"s when it comes to an overload of choices, and the paradoxically ironic freedom and yet lack of satisfaction we get when it comes to more choices. The fourth part, however, gives some nice tips on how to decrease such problems in our own lives that can arise from having simply too many choices.


The Paradox of Choice provides very interesting insights. Going into the book without expectation (with “expecting” coincidentally being one of the topics mentioned in the book) offers some great revelations and realizations among its readers, pulling them in further to learn more about how this "paradox of choice" works, and more importantly, what we can do to work against it in our own lives.

Although the assertions Schwartz makes are sometimes questionable when applying his reasoning to certain topics, he rarely seems to miss a beat when it comes to pinpointing many modern day problems, and how this overdosage of choices can be the cause of it. His analysis, which he’s been observing for years, is keen. His observations are clear when these problems are explained, and real-world examples that are often provided.

We found The Paradox of Choice to be a great read due to its compelling nature and the clear points Schwartz tries to make, and it really provides some insight on how much the options provided to us in today’s society affect us. There is knowledge of being self-aware of the society is trying to do conflicts with being able to combat that to live a fuller and happier life (and that definitely still applies today despite the book being a decade old). It is really a good book for anyone– everyone’s pressured by today’s many options, and anyone can learn and combat this themselves.

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From 2004 to Today

Despite this book being written in 2004, the applications that can be made to modern society today, in 2015, our very similar. Our choices have done nothing but increase. So many options and the mindset that there needs to be something for everybody leads to increasing dissatisfaction in modern purchases. But as we’ve seen, this isn’t always beneficial.

Choosing what smartphone we want, the cases for it, who to hang out with, where to go, what kind of brand or design you want for clothing, what college is right for you, what college courses are right for you, who to date, who to be friends with all seems to hit us in the head within a matter of years, or even months. The objective worthwhileness of considering these options may vary, but the consequences apply nevertheless– and that will continue to be the case in America’s society for many years to come if nothing about us changes.
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Personal Development

Schwartz believes there are two types of people: maximizers and satisficers. While maximizers look for the very best option, satisficers look for only what’s "good enough" (what meets their standards). Schwartz sees that the wise chooser has qualities of both in their selection process. The optimal method of looking for a great deal on a product or the best of your options is being aware of your position in society, where you can find hundreds of brands and styles of one particular product. You mustn't become disappointed or regretful if you don’t find the absolute perfect choice, these days it's practically impossible! Only certain, large purchases should take lots of thought and time. One shouldn't have to search ten stores for the best deal on bananas or t-shirt.

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“Nobody is a maximizer in every decision, and probably everybody is in some. Perhaps what distinguishes maximizers from satisficers is the range and number of decisions in which an individual operates as one or the other" (92).

Charts for You People with Scientific Brains

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These charts represent satisfaction levels.


In the top image, the X-axis represents how much something is actually worth, while the Y-axis represents how much it is worth to an individual.


As you can see, the more valuable something was (in the positive X range), the less satisfied said person was with the value of the object (in the positive Y range). On the other hand, people viewed something that shouldn't have been so terrible (negative X range) as very terrible, very quickly (negative Y range).

In the bottom image, we can see there's a range of data overlapping another straight line, representing the number of choices one is offered.


Too little choices, and people aren't satisfied. While choices increase, people are more satisfied with their freedom. But interestingly, the more these choices increase, the more unsatisfied they become yet again.

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We can conclude the following:

• The more choices one has, theoretically, the more they should be satisfied with their options. But in reality...

• The satisfaction decreases over time as more choices are introduced.. something that objectively is a better thing, but subjectively isn't so nice.

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But what does Schwartz want us to do about choice, anyway?

After investigating all these negatives issues about having choices, Schwartz believes in the following solutions to help us minimize our choices and maximize our satisfaction. He suggests these provided steps:


  1. Choose When to Choose
  2. Be a Chooser, Not a Picker
  3. Satisfice More and Maximize Less
  4. Think About the Opportunity Costs of Opportunity Costs
  5. Make Your Decisions Nonreversible
  6. Practice an "Attitude of Gratitude"
  7. Regret Less
  8. Anticipate Adaptation
  9. Control Expectation
  10. Curtail Social Comparison
  11. Learn to Love Constraints


These steps address each of the issues discussed in The Paradox of Choice.

These simply, yet effective tricks can help minimize the choices presented to you, while staying happy and appreciating the freedom of customization in today's society.

12:25–14:23

Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice

Text–to–Text Comparison

In Benjamin Scheibehenne's article, “Can There Ever Be Too Many Options? A Meta-Analytic Review of Choice Overload," research was put into Schwartz’s thesis on "choice overload" and found conflicting evidence. Many studies have been done since the idea was presented to the public, and “[r]esearchers observing choice overload have commonly argued that negative effects do not always occur but rather depend on certain necessary preconditions.” This article asserts that “people with clear prior preferences prefer to choose from larger assortments and that, for those people, choice probability and satisfaction increased with the number of options to choose from, the opposite of choice overload.”


CONTROVERSY?

^ Read the article here! ^

Is it a MYTH?

Are Schwartz's theories that far-fetched? See what more researches have to say about The Paradox of Choice.

Is the "Paradox of Choice" Real?

The Paradox of Choice uses a majority of the most extreme instances to exemplify his point. In one instance, Schwartz talks about all of the choices involved between two in a relationship. A couple must decide if they should live together or apart, whose job should take priority, and even if they should get married are decisions to be contemplated seriously. Schwartz does not mention that many relationships allow both participants to be equal and not a choice of one way or the other (37). Schwartz also makes many broad statements based on his assumptions, like the fact that T.V. programs are so varied now, people don’t have as much to talk about with their peers (like the shows everybody used to watch), yet many generally talk about their favorite activities with people who have a common interest in these activities. He assumes your access to diverse people is limited, with less people to be your friend.

Our Conclusion?

Overall, though, while the validity of Schwartz's book is questionable and definitely calls for further research, there must be some kernel of truth to it. How we apply these warnings to our everyday lives depends on us– do we want the market to control us or do we want to control the market? The temptation and confusion we get just walking into Hy-Vee can throw us off, but with practice and the right knowledge we, as a society, can conquer our purchasing fears, leaving us with greater satisfaction.