I was recently introduced to a concept called the paradox of choice, a new term coined by Psychology professor Barry Schwartz after his new book fittingly titled The Paradox of Choice. We have learned through this class that making decisions is ultimately bad—IMT states that by making decisions we increase our risk. Risk is not good and Barry Schwartz would agree with this perspective.  Schwartz argues that if we have too many decisions in life, there is more room for apparent “failure.” We focus on the other options that we could have selected and we then we begin to question our choices.  Schwartz gave a Ted Talk in 2014 to discuss his theory, and this is where I have received the examples about this topic.

As Americans we love choices. We think that options are equated to freedom. The American philosophy is the ability to choose. Schwartz disagrees; he would argue that the ability to choose leads to paralysis. The one anecdotal experience he offers is a shopping experience he had at the mall. In previous years, he was used to a selection of a limited variety of jeans: there were maybe two colors, light and dark, and one cut. Now when he gets to the store, there is are multiple colors and cuts to choose from such as light, dark, acid wash, skinny, slim fit, bell bottom, distressed, boot-legged, flare, straight-cut. Many people wonder, where can I just get a basic pair of jeans? Instead you are trying on a bunch of different styles, and stressing over which type to buy. This is the kicker, Schwartz gets home and says, “Well maybe I should have bought the other pair.” At this point, he has seconded guessed his decision. If he had fewer options, he would not have had the opportunity to question his choice, and most likely would have been more content with his selection.  Although his story is comical, it speaks a lot of truth. How many times have you been stressed on which type of bread or shampoo to buy? How are you supposed to know which one is the “perfect” product? I have come to the conclusion that we can never be satisfied with anything within our consumerist society. As Kashiwagi argues, decisions are bad. The less choices we make, the happier and the less stressed we are.

Schwartz also posits that within this type of lifestyle one will always feel as if they are missing out on an opportunity. Nowadays, we have the cell phone in hand and laptop in bag, which keeps us connected 24/7. Take for instance the father who is watching his son’s soccer game.  During the game he has received two voicemails and is told to check his email—because it is “urgent.” It is assumed nowadays that one is always near a phone or has Internet access. Now the father has a decision to make a quick phone call/check an email, or to continue watching the game. There are too many decisions. Schwartz argues that these choices are making people miserable, and I would have to agree.

 

(See what other students have said about this here)

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