Katherine Cowley's Reviews > The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
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's review
Oct 05, 14

it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction, psychology, favorites-of-2011, adult
Read from August 20 to 22, 2011

This book convincingly makes the case that having more choices can actually limit our freedom. The more choices we have about trivial things, the more time we have to spend on them, and we become, in essence, "foragers", sifting through a world of choice. More choices can also make important decisions harder, raising our expectations, encouraging us to seek for the "best" which must be out there somewhere, and increasing our sense of regret by comparison of the choices to others.

This psychology book is presented in a compelling way, using everyday examples and fun comics from different magazines and newspapers. And I'm sold. On his scale of maximizers (those who spend lots of time, energy, and emotion trying to compare absolutely everything as make the best choice) and satisficers (those who set a certain standard of goodness, and once they find it, accept it, even if there might be something better out there) I fall somewhere in the middle. I agree--I would probably be happier if I was more of a satisficer.

In part I'm sold on the concepts of this book because it matches up with some of my personal beliefs. For example, a lot of times we gain pleasure because of novelty, and the risk is that we will always have to find more novelty to have pleasure. Schwartz recommends gratitude as an antidote. From personal experience, finding joy in simple things brings me a lot of happiness.

Schwartz also talks about making decisions that actually limit the full range of choices. For example, getting married and having kids, becoming involved in a community, forming close friendships, and participating in a religion all limit your choices. You now have obligations, responsibilities, and certain restrictions. Yet studies have shown time and time again that it is relationships that bring us the most happiness, although they require us to limit certain choices. Schwartz's research helps explain to me why I find following the commandments of my religion liberating, rather than restricting--they set certain standards and choices for me so I don't have to make them, and can focus on other choices that matter more to me, as well as having the time, health, and spiritual fuel that help me live a happy life.

I'd definitely recommend this book, and while it is about human psychology, it's not a slow or scary read.
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Christie Skipper Ritchotte I've got this on my wish list at Paperback Swap; glad to see it's worth the read!

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