The Paradox of Choice – Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less is another famous book by Barry Schwartz on Psychology and Sociology, first published in the year 2004. The author Barry Schwartz though a series of experiments, researches and studies tries to prove that the greater number of choices humans have, the larger is the issue in decision making and the consequent effects of making a choice.

Barry Schwartz through his book Paradox of Choice challenges the assumption that autonomy and freedom of choice helps the consumers in making better choices. Consumers have a notion that too many choices make our decision making easier but the results through a number of researches comes otherwise.

Paradox of Choice

More About the Author

Author Barry Schwartz is an American Psychologist. He holds a PhD from University of Pennsylvania and is a the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. He since 2016 has been visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He has by now written 8 books and The Paradox of Choice is one of most was one of his earliest published books too.

Barry Schwartz
Barry Schwartz Author of the book – The Paradox of Choice

The idea of writing a book like The Paradox of Choices came when Barry Schwartz went to a clothing store to buy a pair of jeans. When he went to the sales person, she asked him which type of jeans would be prefer, such as Baggy Jeans, Flared Jeans, Slim Fit, Skinny Jeans, etc. He was perplexed with the choices because according to the author, he does not follow fashion and when we received so many options, he had no idea which one to choose from.

That’s when he realised the need of writing this book.

Message from the Author

The book is divided into 3 parts. 1st part is introducing the concept of choices and situations about ‘when’ we choose. 2nd part is ‘how’ do we make choices and the 3rd part is ‘what’ burden comes up with choices (after effects). 2nd part of the book describes the number of ways consumers choose while following a set strategy in making a choice. According to the author, there are two types of buyers, one is the Maximizer and other is the Satisficers. Both Maximizer and Satisficers have their own pros and cons and as you read the book, you would know which one of those leads a better life.

3rd part discussed how every choice comes with a series of complications psychologically leading to sufferings. Every one choice leads to giving up the rest and consequently leading to anxiety psychologically.

Key Takeaways from Barry Schwartz

  1. Typical supermarket carries more than 30,000 items. That’s a lot to choose from. And more than 20,000 new products hit the shelves every year, almost all of them doomed to failure.
  2. We probably like to think that we’re too smart to be seduced by such “branding,” but we aren’t.
  3. When products are essentially equivalent, people go with what’s familiar, even if it’s only familiar because they know its name from advertising.
  4. Freedom to choose has what might be called expressive value
  5. The value of autonomy is built into the fabric of our legal and moral system.
  6. Counterintuitive as it may appear, what seems to contribute most to happiness binds us rather than liberates us.
  7. Both books point out how the growth of material affluence has not brought with it an increase in subjective well-being.
  8. Apparently, we always think we want choice, but when we actually get it, we may not like it. Meanwhile, the need to choose in ever more aspects of life causes us more distress than we realise.
  9. In the short run, we regret a broken romance, whereas in the long run, we regret a missed romantic opportunity.
  10. Upward counterfactuals are imagined states that are better than what actually happened, and downward counterfactuals are imagined states that are worse.

Maximiser vs. Satisficer by Barry Schwartz

Imagine you want to buy a sweater and you enter a store for the same.

You spend 1 hour finding the best match.The color is striking, the fit is flattering, and the wool feels soft against your skin. The sweater costs $89. Suddenly you realise that there is another shop down the street that sells sweater at cheaper price. You take the sweater back to its display table, and leave to check out the other store.

When you assure that the product you are buying is the best decision, you go and check for every alternative possible then you become a **maximiser** While the alternative of a maximiser is being a **satisficer**.

To satisfice is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better.

A satisficer has criteria and standards. He/She searches until he/she finds an item that meets those standards, and at that point, he/she stops. As soon as she finds a sweater that meets her standard of fit, quality, and price in the very first store she enters, he/she buys it – end of story.

Maximiser vs. Satisficer

Rating and Recommendations

  1. Quality of Writing – The book is easy to read and understand. The book is divided into three parts and number of numbers that makes the book readable.
  2. Insights – Some of the insights are very interesting and experiments were conducted about the choices, understanding the human behaviour. Some of the experiments are taken from Daniel Kahneman and other notable writer’s books.
  3. Reader’s Interest – The first 30-40 pages are only on different types of choices that people do. It makes the book a bit boring because it is something we already know. As the book moves forward, it becomes more interesting. Sometimes it seems like things have been repeated in the book, which makes it less interesting.

Ratings – 7.something/10

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