The paralysis of choice

The paralysis of choice

We are told and believe that the way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. In fact, every where we look, life is a matter of choices. It starts with your school, the major and minor we choose in college, our partners in life and expands to little things like health insurance plans, salad dressings and jeans fits.

In the TED Talk embedded below, you will hear Barry Schwartz talk about this paradox of choice and explain why it is so hard to take decisions and why sometimes we feel that having tons of choices is not the best way. He will explain, that too many choices actually make us less happy and limit us in our freedom.

Having too many choices produces paralysis rather than liberation, it leads to us not being able to choose at all. When a decision seems to complicated, we’ll leave her for the next day or not take her at all. Other than paralysing us, too many possibilities makes us miserable because we may feel regret after taking the decision, because we weight the other opportunities against the on taken, because our expectations are too high and because we blame ourselves for not having taken the best decision possible.

In his talk, Barry takes jeans as an examples and declines all the choices we have. A couple of years ago, one brand made one jeans and if you like them, those were the ones you bought. And you would stick with them. Nowadays, you are bombarded with different fits, sizes and styles when looking for a new pair of jeans.

If we chose we end up less satisfied.

Regret: We regret the decision we have taken because we think we could have taken a better one. There are so many options, that the one we took, is not necessarily the best. We regret our choice.

Opportunity cost: When there are lots of different alternatives, we think we are missing out on an opportunity. Even after having made a good decision.

Escalation of expectations: Our expectations rise, when there are tons of alternatives. With some many similar but jet different products, there has to be one that is perfect. We expect to much and even if we’ve made a good decision, it will never be able to stand up to our expectations. It will never be perfect and we will never be pleasantly surprised by the experience.

Self blame: We blame ourselves for having made a bad decisions, because we see that there are so many other similar products. Obviously, with so many other options, we could have spent some more time or research on picking the perfect solution for ourselves.

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