I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the cover. It’s a book about the complexities of decision making – and it has an endorsement by Daniel Kahneman (the Nobel-prize winning researcher on behavioral economics). I bought it on the spot.
The Paradox of Choice is a book about the overwhelming number of choices that are being forced on us every single day. Schwartz’s divides people into ‘maximizers’ and ‘satisficers’. Maximizers cannot rest until they analyze every possible choice available. If you have to compare product reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and then possibly a book review in a newspaper, before making a book purchase, you are a maximizer. A satisficer is satisfied with a product that is simply ‘good enough’ without investing time in researching all the available options.
Clearly, there areas in life where we would all like to be maximizers – when purchasing a house or choosing a university degree. But, if, like me, you are cable of spending hours researching different types of new keyboards before settling for the cheapest one you were looking at first, you might want to let your standards slip.
It is possible to feel regret about getting the decision wrong before actually making a decision – it’s called anticipated regret. Every time you make a decision, you have to give up one of the options – anticipated regret is the state of knowing that whatever decision you make, you will end up regretting something. This is a common problem for maximizers.
You might think that a shop’s having a return policy might put your heart at ease. After all, you can always return it, right? Wrong. Having the option of returning an object will, on average, make you less satisfied with your decision. It is highly likely for people like me will spend oodles of time pondering whether they should return their purchase or not.
I really enjoyed reading this book – it brought a new perspective to my everyday decision-making problems. To make things even better, the author consistently uses New Yorker cartoons to illustrate his points. I love those cartoons ever so much. Definitely worth a read, if you struggle with decision-making.
One thought on “Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice” – book review”
I enjoyed it but found it a little lightweight. It has been a few years now since I read it and I would struggle to tell you much about it. Which is too bad, because the topic is fascinating.
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