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The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  30,719 ratings  ·  1,599 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 265 pages
Published January 18th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 2004)
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Simon It is an analysis of the effects of the increasing amount of choice we are faced with as a result our modern value of "freedom" as it has been interpr…moreIt is an analysis of the effects of the increasing amount of choice we are faced with as a result our modern value of "freedom" as it has been interpreted by society simply mean more options. For better or for worse.

It starts by explaining the situation as the writer sees it. One example is the experiment of offering chocolate samples, one day offering a small selection and having a positive response in sales and another day where more selection of samples are offered but with a surprisingly poorer response in sales. This sets the temperament of the authors composition.

The book continues by addressing issues of choice and happiness, missed opportunities, comparison, disappointment, depression and other psychological areas. It is neatly concluded in a short chapter titled 'What to Do About Choice'.(less)
Steve Malerich I hesitate to attach superlatives to anything, so I'll start my answer with: (1) This is an easy read; (2) It's relevant to daily living; (3) It cites…moreI hesitate to attach superlatives to anything, so I'll start my answer with: (1) This is an easy read; (2) It's relevant to daily living; (3) It cites substantial research that either leads to or supports its conclusions; and (4) It provides recommendations that are consistent with the observations and conclusions.

If your definition of "brilliant" includes something that combines those four characteristics, then this book qualifies.(less)

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Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Maybe I don't read enough Psychology, but I thought this book was fantastic. Swarthmore 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 satisf ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
The Paradox of Choice is a 236 page treatises on why too much choice can be debilitating. It can be summed up in its sub-sub-title: "Why the Culture of Abundance Robs Us of Satisfaction." (Why a book needs a sub-title under the sub-title beats me). The problem is that we spend too much time and energy trying to make choices that in the grand scheme of things don't matter that much. I agree with the big idea, but I hated the book and here's why:

Schwartz could have made his point in a fine three
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Really important book for me. Refers to some great research. Some highlights:

- “choice no longer liberates, but debilitates” -“choice overload”
- we’d be better off if we embraced some limits on choice instead of rebelling, by seeking “good enough” rather than the best, by lowering our expectations about our decisions, by making our decisions nonreversible, and by not comparing ourselves to others as much

I. When We Choose
1. Let’s Go Shopping
- 30% of people bought from the small sample
Jan 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
The premise of this book did interest me. What I thought was going to be a book that analyzed how the abundances of choice or at least the appearance of choice affects our perception of freedom, satisfaction, and enjoyment, turned out to be a repetitive book that sounds like an older guy complaining why there are so many different types of beans in the supermarket.

"I just want a can of beans! Why are there so many types! Just give me beans!"

Honestly, at one point he does appear to bemoan the var
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.”
― Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less


A solid survey of the behavioral economics literature related to the premise that the wide range of choices we have (what to read, how to read it, what rating to give it, where to post our review) actually ends up making us unhappier (tyranny of small decisions). Schwartz's s
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing

This is one of those books that, once you've read it, permanently shifts your perspective. It made me think altogether differently about the value of having MORE choices. As the author argues, your sense of well-being increases when you go from having no choices to having a few choices. But as you go from having a few choices to having many choices, your happiness typically goes down. Why? Because it's time-consuming and stressful to choose between all those alternatives! You become fearful of m
Kressel Housman
I first heard of this book from a friend, who explained it in terms of dating. In the span of time between her first date with her husband and the day they finally got married, she had married and divorced someone else. Why? Because when he first met her, he couldn’t decide. There were so many other women available he was afraid of missing out on “the right one” and wanted to try out more options. That is the paradox of choice. The more options that are available, the harder it is to decide.

Sean Engelhardt
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Five stars not for the writing but for the overall content. He could have said everything he needed to say in a few-page article, and it's pretty redundant. But it's still a really quick read so what's the harm...

There are so many things in here that are so interesting and apply to tons of situations and decisions every day. Things that people constantly do to themselves without thinking, and could be so much happier if they knew they were doing it. I am basically recommending that everyone I kn
Carrie Poppy
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Potentially life changing.
Nov 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in behavior and decision-making
In The Paradox of Choice, Schwartz focuses on two basic ways of making decisions: maximizing (trying to make the very best possible choice) and satisficing (making a choice that will do well enough, all things considered).

In the past, I've thought of these two approaches in terms of the decisions that need to be made, not in terms of the person making them. For example, when picking a spouse or a house, one may want to take a lot of time and make the best possible decision. When selecting a rest
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

Fascinating look at why making decisions can be so hard and some tips on how to lessen the regret from making a "bad choice".

There were a few comments that came across somewhat sexist, but as I can't remember them (I read this over a LOOOOOONG period of time), I won't push the point.
Erika RS
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Schwartz describes how having an excessive amount of choice in our lives can bring unhappiness and suffering. He describes some of the many sources of choices in modern life, some psychological factors relating to choice making, how choices can cause unhappiness, and some techniques for dealing with this unhappiness.

First of all, Schwartz emphasizes that choice is good. It is vital to happiness. However, he claims that in the here and now of the 21st century US, we are overwhelmed with choices,
Nada Elshabrawy
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, english
This one is important!
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book had some good points. Enough to make a decent length research article maybe, but not the length or breadth for a book of these subsequent verbose assumptions. Yes, things ARE too complex. And really they don't need to be so complex, but humans and their organizations, in particular- have made them so.

As I am not a maximizer in any sense, and least of all in the material- this was rather a waste of time for me to read, IMHO.

If you are competitive in nature to the extreme, have difficul
Yousif Al Zeera
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: yz, 2019-plan, nonfiction
More is less. Definitely.
The book makes a strong case (backed by research) on the side-effects of living with a plethora of choices. More choices and options always looked like something to aspire to but the repercussions of the continued proliferation of choices in all fields at these ridiculous rates is very alarming when its effect is taken cumulatively.
Mario Tomic
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The big idea of this book is that after a certain threshold having too many choices will decrease our happiness regardless if we make the best choice in the end. I like the part of the book where the author goes in detail to explain choice paralysis which is something I dealt with a lot myself. Paralysis happens when when there's too many options. Naturally we tend to make worse decisions because we attempt to simplify the choices to a point where the simplification reduces our ability to make a ...more
Nicholas Karpuk
Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: You
"The Paradox of Choice" is a simple book in many ways. It shows that there's concrete data backing up many of the "well duh" platitudes people regularly dismiss while making terrible life choices.

The book was a revelation for me, since it related a lot to the culture of worry and second guessing I grew up with. Part exploration of our society of excessive options and the misery they seem to cause our inhabitants, and part self-help guide, it's the opposite of "True Enough", it's a book that rath
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
It sounds so non-intuitive; why are less happy when we are given many choices, than when we have few or even none? I was rather skeptical at first. However, this book explains, in a very readable way, why this is so. It has to do with the difference between objective and subjective results. Objectively, when given a choice, we end up with a superior result. When given a choice, we end up with a better match to our desires; a better vacation, a better partner, a better car, a better stereo, a bet ...more
Jun 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book explained so much about the way I behave -- I am a total maximizer, meaning that whenever I have a choice to make, I always want the absolute best option, even if researching to discover the best option is hard and time-consuming. Instead, I could be a satisficer: someone who picks the option that satisfies all their requirements, without worrying whether something better is out there. Schwartz shows persuasively that maximizers are less happy than satisficers. This book helped me unde ...more
Karam Elkezit
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: neuroscience
As societies advances, our number of choices advance with them,whether its buying shampoo or chosing a career we are always faced with an increasing number of choices, but as we spend more energy and time to make a simple choice, we end up losing much more.

Things like :tradeoffs, guilt ,regret, social comparisons and expectations... can only leed to a loss of happiness no matter how good the choice is.

What we think is an upgrade for life in our time only makes us more stressful than we were year
Kristi Thielen
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Barry Schwartz is chiefly concerned with explaining that an abundance of opportunities - especially for material goods - can actually decrease happiness and that "maximizers," - people in relentless pursuit of the best of all things and agonized by the fear that their decision might be the wrong one - would be better off as "satisficers," - people who discipline themselves to consider only a limited range of options and then make a firm decision and get on with life.

Learn to accept "good enough
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When I was a kid, I remember my dad that after shaved his beard and was about to use his cologne, he stared at all the bottles on the shelves and in his calabrian accent said something that means "abundance is like dearth". This is why I felt I was reading something really personal.

Anyway, this book is pure gold, although it won't probably tell you anything you're not already aware of, is going to put you in the mood of this simple concept the book is focused on: Too much is not good, supportin
Sourya Dey
This book is really good in a few places, but repetitive for the most part. The subject matter is very interesting - why we (the developed world in particular) are getting more depressed despite our standard of living ostensibly rising with each passing day? A lot of the explanations are common sense if you think about it, such as too much choice is a bad thing, social comparisons make us sad, and losing something after having it is worse than not having it at all. I enjoyed the conclusions of t ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This and Borges' "Library of Babel" are the two works that best describe sites such as this.

Highly recommended.
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-other
Very interesting book on the psychological reasons for the choices people make and the consequences of increased options to their overall satisfaction.
The author thesis is that, while some choice is good, more choice is not necessarily better. As a culture, we like freedom, self-determination, and variety, and we are reluctant to give up any of our options, but clinging tenaciously to all the choices available to us contributes to bad decisions, anxiety and stress.

A few personal takeaway points
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book hit me at the right time. It describes how the happiness goes in a U-curve following the number of options you have, at first more options is great as it leads to competition and better outcomes, but at a certain point the number of options can be so overwhelming that trying to find the best one causes you more stress than is worth it.

TL;DR is: go for the suboptimal choice, one that you can be satisfied with and stick with it. Don’t try to go for ‘the best’ because there is no such th
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Paradox of Choice is easy to read, perhaps because its ideas have found their way into the culture. Regardless, it explains a lot. The core arguments:

-We would be better off if we embraced certain voluntary constraints.
-We would be better off seeking what is "good enough" instead of what is best.
-We would be better off if we lowered our expectations of the results of decisions.
-We would be better off if the decisions we made were nonreversible.
-We would be better off if we paid less att
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
A though-provoking read that encourages the reader to be open and honest about the ways in which they make choices and decisions. My only critique is that I felt the book was a bit too long and got repetitive. It could have easily been half the length and still as effective if the writing was more concise. The volume of research and cases also contributed to the length of the book, and though I appreciated the evidence, I found it a bit overwhelming. I valued the emphasis on the need to be grate ...more
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
This is an interesting book that acknowledges the blessing of freedom of choice, but points out that more isn't always better. Often too many choices can actually create more problems or even immobilize us in our decision making. The author offers many meaningful examples from shopping for small and large items, to college courses and majors, to relationships. These principles apply in many settings.

Several parts of this book reminded me of my decision analysis class in graduate school and our t
Chloe Anderson
Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Shwartz’s anecdotes started off quite boring and had me questioning why I began reading this book, but the initial mundane experiences and tedious choices that we make everyday that should have very little impact on our lives have become all consuming, for many people, including myself which did not come as a shock to me.
These choices that we make such as what to watch on TV, what to eat, wear etc should be second nature, but they’re not a lot of the time for maximisers, which in some aspects of
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an American psychologist. Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. He frequently publishes editorials in the New York Times applying his research in psychology to current events.

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“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” 51 likes
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