On the Paradox of Choice


Today, I went out to Grand & Toys to get some office supplies. While there, I remembered that I could use a new pen, and so I go at the front of the store where they keep their pen display. To my dismay, I see that Grand & Toys offers about 60 different types of pens. One of every type, shape, and color! At first, you (and I) would think that so much choice was great for me. That I would now be liberated by the amount of pens to choose from. That I could finally pick up the best possible pen for myself!

In fact, I was completely paralyzed and ended up leaving without buying any pen.

It’s not the first time I am faced with this sort of situation (happened a while back with paper…), but a week or two ago, I watched the following talk, embedded from www.ted.com, which made me realized exactly what I was feeling. I was confronted with what Barry Schwartz called “the paradox of choice”.

According to psychologist Barry Schwartz, this paralysis is a consequence of too much choice, which he discusses thoroughly in his book Why more is Less. In this talk, Schwartz goes on to explain other problems caused by the wealth of choice in our western society, namely, anticipated regret, opportunity cost, escalation of expectations, and self blame.

In just about 20 minutes, Barry Schwartz goes from explaining what some think is the biggest culprit (I do) for the rising depression and suicide rates in our society to giving away the secret to living a happy life. Well worth the 20:22 minutes! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:

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