52 Books a Year: #42 - The Paradox of Choice

Posted by Brian Tue, 22 Dec 2009 17:54:18 GMT

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
By Barry Schwartz

4.5/5

In western culture we are swimming in a sea of choice, but when does that sea turn into a flood? That is the topic of discussion in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. If every instance of choice makes us happier, how is it that too much choice seems to make us unhappy? In the past fifty years the number of choices available to the average American has increased dramatically, but research shows that we are no happier for it.

Schwartz lays out his concept of Satisficers, those who look at their choices and choose one that is good enough, and Maximizers, those who must choose only the best, and walks us through how each group makes choices among a dizzying array of options in a very thorough manner. He covers simple examples of choice overload at the grocery store or clothes shopping, adaptation to new levels of happiness or disappointment, regret, comparison, and many others. All the examples and explanation of studies is done in a clear and concise manner.

One of the criticisms I have heard is that it is too thorough, but I disagree. Those people thought the subject could have been captured in a magazine article. At a high level it could have, but the large array of studies and research he covers would have been lost and those are what really hammers his point home

The writing is excellent and never goes into psycho-analysis speak. This book is clearly written for a mass market. This should be required reading for our confused consumer culture. No choice needs to be made, just go pick it up.

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