The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

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Harper Collins, Dec 22, 2003 - Psychology - 288 pages
1053 Reviews

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 401(k), everyday decisions -- both big and small -- have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.

As Americans, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice -- the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish -- becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice -- from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs -- has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse.

By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counter intuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on those that are important and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.


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Review: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

User Review  - Goodreads

Fascinating and thought provoking. I discovered new things about myself and can better understand some other people close to me after realizing the different ways we are wired to make choices. Schwartz makes some great points in this book and it's worth a read. Read full review

Review: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

User Review  - Goodreads

This book takes a long, hard look at why it's so difficult for us to choose now that we have so many choices. The featured studies are compelling and their findings are sound, even 10 years after ... Read full review


A Road Map
New Choices
Chapters Deciding and Choosing
When Only the Best Will Do
Choice and Happiness
Missed Opportunities
Cha pter 7 Only The Problem of Regret 47
Why Everything Suffers from Comparison
Whose Fault Is It? Choice
What to Do About Choice

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Page 103 - I am satisfied with my life. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
Page 146 - Paul owns shares in Company A. During the past year he considered switching to stock in Company B, but he decided against it. He now finds that he would have been better off by $1,200 if he had switched to the stock of Company B.
Page 1 - As a culture, we are enamored of 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, to anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction — even to clinical depression. Many years ago, the distinguished political philosopher Isaiah Berlin made an important distinction between "negative liberty...
Page 64 - Imagine that you have decided to see a play and paid the admission price of $10 per ticket. As you enter the theater you discover that you have lost the ticket. The seat was not marked and the ticket cannot be recovered. Would you pay $10 for another ticket?
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Page 127 - Problem 1 (n = 170): Imagine that you serve on the jury of an only-child sole-custody case following a relatively messy divorce. The facts of the case are complicated by ambiguous economic, social, and emotional considerations, and you decide to base your decision entirely on the following few observations. [To which parent would you award sole custody of the child...
Page xvi - When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. As the number of available choices increases, as it has in our consumer culture, the autonomy, control, and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded.

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About the author (2003)

Barry Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. He is the author of several books, including The Battle for Human Nature: Science, Morality and Modern Life and The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life. His articles have appeared in many of the leading journals in his field, including the American Psychologist. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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