Is More Choice Better?

buttermilk-180x115 Is More Choice Better?

“we are faced with too many choices in modern markets…”

The problem is that when we are faced with too many choices in modern markets, there is a cost of having choice overload. This can lead to bad decisions, anxiety, stress and dissatisfaction – even clinical depression.

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What is the solution to this dilemma? Author Barry Schwartz claims the solution lies in relying upon the social structure that normally serve to temper consumption. He says that, “Social institutions could ease the burden on individuals by establishing constraints that, while open to transformation, could not be violated willy-nilly by each person as he chooses. With clearer ‘rules of the game’ for us to live by—constraint that specify how much of life each of us should devote to ourselves and what our obligations to family, friends, and community should be—much of the onus for making these decisions would be lifted.” (Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, New York: Harper Perennial, 2004, p. 112.)

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  • I often wonder what a brain scan might tell us about Barry Schwartz. I’ve never known anybody who had a problem with “choice overload.” I have known store managers who tried “reducing choice overload” (as an excuse to be lazier about restocking the shelves), resulting in net losses for the department or for the whole store.

    • That said…since 2004 I *have* been aware that I tend automatically to reduce “choice overload” in some ways, as do people I know. I may want the craft store to show me every single color of every single yarn I might buy, but then again I go into the craft store with a list of possible projects for which different combinations of yarns would work.

      Or: Recently someone called for poems on the general topic of freedom from censorship, with specific reference to the Falun Gong people in China. My thought process was, “Formal poem intended to be shared with public officials…should begin by narrating historical examples. Which form, exactly? Hmm…in English the keywords of Falun Gong form a ‘terza rima,’ so why not a poem in terza-rima form.” That reduced the choice overload to a manageable level, and then the poem wrote itself in an hour or two.