“Paradox of Choice” (Psychology of Happiness #9)

“Paradox of Choice” (Psychology of Happiness #9)


Walk into any grocery store, and you’ll
quickly realize that we have a lot of choices that we could make every single
moment of our lives. I know that when I look for cereal — cereal! It’s so simple! It
should be so easy! I walk down the cereal aisle, and I’m faced with an
entire aisle filled with different kinds of cereal. You walk down another aisle, and you just want to buy ketchup or BBQ sauce, and there are so many options of each
of them. Well, Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, has
started to think that this amount of choice is bad for our happiness. He wrote
a really influential book called: “The Paradox of Choice,” and his argument is
that when we live in a world that has this many choices available to us, even
though it feels like it should be a benefit to us, it can actually backfire
and make us less happy and satisfied overall. Schwartz and his colleagues have
identified distinct types of people “Maximizers” and “Satisficers.”
Maximizers are the type of people who, when faced with some decision to
make, you look at all of the available options and really critically evaluate
each one. In the grocery store, this would be the type of person who goes through
each box of cereal in the cereal aisle before finally making a choice about
which is exactly the right choice for him or her. Satisficers, on the other hand, are the
types of people who find some threshold — something that they want — and then
they choose the first thing that meets that criterion. So for example, a satisficer
goes, “I just want cereal that will be something that I’d like fine enough in
the morning,” walks down the aisle, finds one box that seems to satisfy that
particular criterion, and walks away. Similarly, the satisficer might think, “I want to buy the least expensive ketchup in the kethcup aisle,” and then the
choice is really simple, and he or she picks the cheapest one. So you
can see there’s a difference between how people interact with the huge variety of
choices that are available to us. People who are maximizing all of the
potential options — these are the Maximizers and the people who just satisfy a
simple criterion and go with making a simple choice — those are our Satisficers. The question is: does that difference with dealing with choice have any real
impact? One really popular study that influenced a ton of research in the
psychology of decision-making looked at whether people were able to choose a
product when they had a few options available to them versus a whole bunch
of options available to them. In this case, what they did is sometimes they
present people with six types of jams and have them taste each one and say “Do
you want to purchase one of these jams?” Or they said “Here are 24 types of
jams. Taste all of them and then pick one that you want.” And what they found is
people who were given fewer options were more likely to actually choose one and
were more happy with the choice after having made it, compared to people who
had a bunch of different options, who were paralyzed by the amount of
choice — how could I determine the difference between 17,000 types of jam? It’s ridiculous. Those were the types of people who, under
those conditions, might not have ended up choosing to buy one at all, and if they
did, they regretted their decision more. So here’s the thing: the question then comes up — ok,
if we look at the types of people who make choices in one way, by surveying all
of the options, or the other, the satisficers who lock in pretty quickly… do they have a different experience in
their day-to-day lives? Let’s take it beyond the consumer domain. Let’s go
outside the grocery store for a second and ask, “in day-to-day life, are these types
of people happier or less happy overall?” And research by Schwartz and colleagues
in 2002 found a reliable relationship between maximizing and well-being. Basically, what they show is that the types of people who say they’re more likely to
survey all the options before making a final choice are less happy in their
day-to-day lives, compared to the people who make relatively simple, quick
decisions. And the idea behind this that I want to put forward to you is that it
might be worth simplifying your life. I know that after finding out about this
research, I used to be a Maximizer. I’ll admit it! I’m here. I’m open. I’m Andy. I’m a Maximizer. But once I learned about this research, I started to implement the
strategy of satisficing more often, making a quicker decision. Rather than
poring over all of the options, pick one that just seems to do the job, and then
stick with it. And by reducing the amount of pressure you put on yourself every
time you make a choice, that frees up your resources in your brain to live a
more satisfying life. So take this point and understand that simplifying things
can be a key to a happier life. When faced with a decision, find a way to make
it as efficiently as possible and don’t worry about all the things that you
could have chosen. Because the reality is, the more options you consider, the more
you’re likely to regret having not made one of those options, ultimately. So if you were
picking between 24 different types of cereal, once you finally pick
one, you’re gonna regret not picking cereals 1, 3, & 9. But if you choose a
simple strategy going in, that could be an effective way of increasing your
overall sense of well-being.

Comments

(3 Comments)

  • Victor Sun

    I appreciate this series!

  • Queenie Acacio

    this is really helpful.
    I myself is a maximizer. I like to run through my options before selecting in order to make the best choices.
    I think the only time that I am a satificer is when choosing a cereal lol. Because I go with what my tastebuds want–chocolate or cinnamon. Which actually feels good. Because when I over analyze my options, I end up taking too much time, and if I make a bad decision, I seem to feel as if I had failed horribly and find myself unhappy.

    My boyfriend on the other hand, he makes quick decisions based on what he needs and want. Which is actually not a bad thing. He is problem free with his strategy of making decisions. I think it's what makes him versatile and I envy him for that.

    Having to have seem this video, it pushes me to practice making simple decisions. It opened my eyes to see that as long as you have what you need, may it be not the best option, it is still has the same function from the other options you have.

    With that, you are uped 1. (if life had exp points)

  • runninghustler

    so i guess its not a paradox since you gave us the answer

  • Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *