The Paradox of Choice

Why More Is Less

Barry Schwartz

Summary: If I read this book before all those Arielys, Kahnemans, then it would be much more interesting and mind-boggling.

Score: 60 / 100

there is a cost to having an overload of choice. (Friday, March 08, 2013, 03:34 PM, page 100)

Choosing well is especially difficult for those determined to make only the best choices, (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 06:37 AM, page 122-23)

the conventional wisdom is wrong, at least when it comes to what satisfies us in the decisions we make. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 06:51 AM, page 138-39)

A typical supermarket carries more than 30,000 items. That’s a lot to choose from. And more than 20,000 new products hit the shelves every year, almost all of them doomed to failure. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 07:00 AM, page 176-77)

modern university is a kind of intellectual shopping mall. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 07:07 AM, page 215)

AMERICANS SPEND MORE TIME SHOPPING THAN THE MEMBERS OF any other society. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 07:19 AM, page 271-72)

the students faced with the small array were more satisfied with their tasting than those faced with the large array. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 07:24 AM, page 296-97)

economist Fred Hirsch referred to as the “tyranny of small decisions.” We say to ourselves, “Let’s go to one more store” or “Let’s look at one more catalog,” and not “Let’s go to all the stores” or “let’s look at all the catalogs.” (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 07:26 AM, page 308-10)

FILTERING OUT EXTRANEOUS INFORMATION IS ONE OF THE BASIC functions of consciousness. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 07:31 AM, page 334-35)

patients commonly prefer to have others make their decisions for them. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 08:29 AM, page 460-61)

What patients really seem to want from their doctors, Gawande believes, is competence and kindness. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 08:30 AM, page 462-63)

But during the week, you’re an automaton. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 09:19 AM, page 617-18)

So it seems that neither our predictions about how we will feel after an experience nor our memories of how we did feel during the experience are very accurate reflections of how we actually do feel while the experience is occurring. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 09:46 AM, page 709-11)

The average American sees three thousand ads a day. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 09:48 AM, page 719)

several studies have demonstrated that “familiarity breeds liking.” (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 09:52 AM, page 738-39)

“In general, the more often we encounter something, the easier it is for us to recall it in the future. (Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 05:49 PM, page 791-92)

Vivid interviews with people have profound effects on judgment even when people are told, in advance of seeing the interviews, that the subjects of the interview are atypical. (Thursday, March 28, 2013, 08:58 AM, page 804-5)

We are all susceptible to making errors, but we’re not each susceptible to making the same errors, because our experiences are different. (Thursday, March 28, 2013, 09:04 AM, page 828-29)

the group predictions are better than the predictions of any individual. (Thursday, March 28, 2013, 09:05 AM, page 834)

1970s, shortly after unit-pricing started appearing on the shelves just beneath the various items. When unit price information appeared on shelf tags, shoppers saved an average of 1 percent on their grocery bills. They did so mostly by purchasing the larger-sized packages of whatever brand they bought. However, when unit prices appeared on lists comparing different brands, shoppers saved an average of 3 percent on their bills. They did so now mostly by purchasing not larger sizes, but cheaper brands. (Thursday, March 28, 2013, 10:55 AM, page 857-60)

Even if companies sell almost none of their highest-priced models, they can reap enormous benefits from producing such models because they help induce people to buy their cheaper (but still extremely expensive) ones. (Thursday, March 28, 2013, 10:56 AM, page 867-69)

When the possibilities involve losses, however, we will risk a large loss to avoid a smaller one. (Thursday, March 28, 2013, 11:02 AM, page 900)

The endowment effect helps explain why companies can afford to offer money-back guarantees on their products. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 06:04 AM, page 982-83)

Thus the growth of options and opportunities for choice has three, related, unfortunate effects.   It means that decisions require more effort. It makes mistakes more likely. It makes the psychological consequences of mistakes more severe. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 06:20 AM, page 1025-28)

the movie High Fidelity, (Friday, March 29, 2013, 06:38 AM, page 1118)

I believe that learning how to satisfice is an important step not only in coping with a world of choice but in simply enjoying life. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 06:57 AM, page 1156-57)

perfectionists have very high standards that they don’t expect to meet, whereas maximizers have very high standards that they do expect to meet. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 07:11 AM, page 1224-26)

Studies comparing the well-being of people living in different cultures have shown that substantial differences between cultures in the consumption opportunities they make available to people have very small effects on peoples’ satisfaction with their lives. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 07:28 AM, page 1305-7)

people in rich countries are happier than people in poor countries. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 07:02 PM, page 1415-16)

Being connected to others seems to be much more important to subjective well-being than being rich. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 07:04 PM, page 1427-28)

happy people attract others to them, and being with others makes people happy. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 07:05 PM, page 1431-32)

We earn more and spend more, but we spend less time with others. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 07:21 PM, page 1461-62)

“wanting” and “liking” are served by fundamentally different brain systems—systems (Friday, March 29, 2013, 07:36 PM, page 1542-43)

Pay attention to what you’re giving up in the next-best alternative, but don’t waste energy feeling bad about having passed up an option further down the list that you wouldn’t have gotten to anyway. (Friday, March 29, 2013, 07:48 PM, page 1619-21)

when people are presented with options involving trade-offs that create conflict, all choices begin to look unappealing. (Sunday, March 31, 2013, 11:42 AM, page 1710)

effect—when we are in a good mood, we think better. (Sunday, March 31, 2013, 11:53 AM, page 1766)

Even decisions as trivial as renting a video become important if we believe that these decisions are revealing something significant about ourselves. (Sunday, March 31, 2013, 12:10 PM, page 1836-37)

people are not always thinking first and deciding second. (Sunday, March 31, 2013, 12:12 PM, page 1847-48)

what is most easily put into words is not necessarily what is most important. (Sunday, March 31, 2013, 12:18 PM, page 1875)

bad results make people equally unhappy whether or not they are responsible for them. But bad results make people regretful only if they bear responsibility. (Monday, April 01, 2013, 06:11 PM, page 2041-42)

The lesson is that we should try to do more downward counterfactual thinking. While upward counterfactual thinking may inspire us to do better the next time, downward counterfactual thinking may induce us to be grateful for how well we did this time. (Monday, April 01, 2013, 06:27 PM, page 2085-86)

What I do with my computer hasn’t changed all that much over the years. But what I expect it to do for me has. (Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 05:12 PM, page 2247-48)

In general, human beings are remarkably bad at predicting how various experiences will make them feel. Chances are that if lottery winners knew in advance just how little winning the lottery would improve their subjective well-being, they wouldn’t be buying lottery tickets. (Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 05:46 PM, page 2333-35)

If the decision provides substantial satisfaction for a long time after it is made, the costs of making it recede into insignificance. But if the decision provides satisfaction for only a short time, those costs loom large. Spending four months deciding what stereo to buy isn’t so bad if you really enjoy that stereo for fifteen years. But if you end up being excited by it for six months and then adapting, you may feel like a fool for having put in all that effort. It just wasn’t worth it. (Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 05:56 PM, page 2382-85)

Happiness isn’t everything. Subjective experience is not the only reason we have for existing. Careful, well-researched, and labor-intensive decisions may produce better objective results than impulsive decisions. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 07:17 AM, page 2392-93)

IF YOU LIVE IN A WORLD IN WHICH YOU EXPERIENCE MISERY MORE often than joy, adaptation is very beneficial. It may be the only thing that gives you the strength and courage to get through the day. But if you live in a world of plenty, in which sources of joy outnumber sources of misery, then adaptation defeats your attempts to enjoy your good fortune. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 07:18 AM, page 2398-2401)

Individuals who experience gratitude are more alert, enthusiastic, and energetic than those who do not, and they are more likely to achieve personal goals. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 07:22 AM, page 2413-14)

The challenge is to find a way to keep expectations modest, even as actual experiences keep getting better. One way of achieving this goal is by keeping wonderful experiences rare. No matter what you can afford, save great wine for special occasions. No matter what you can afford, make that perfectly cut, elegantly styled, silk blouse a special treat. This may seem like an exercise in self-denial, but I don’t think it is. On the contrary, it’s a way to make sure that you can continue to experience pleasure. What’s the point of great meals, great wines, and great blouses if they don’t make you feel great? (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 08:28 AM, page 2509-13)

social psychologists have found that upward comparisons produce jealousy, hostility, negative mood, frustration, lowered self-esteem, decreased happiness, and symptoms of stress. By the same token, downward comparisons have been found to boost self-esteem, increase positive mood, and reduce anxiety. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 08:31 AM, page 2526-28)

Part of the satisfaction from achievements and possessions comes from the awareness that not everyone can match them. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 08:39 AM, page 2544-45)

If there were only one pond—if everyone compared his position to the positions of everybody else—virtually all of us would be losers. After all, in the pond containing whales, even sharks are small. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 08:40 AM, page 2547-49)

We might all agree that everyone would be better off if there were less positional competition. It’s stressful, it’s wasteful, and it distorts people’s lives. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 08:49 AM, page 2592-93)

WITH LIMITLESS CHOICE, WE PRODUCE BETTER results with our decisions than we would in a more limited world, but we feel worse about them. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 09:10 AM, page 2692-93)

The evidence is rather compelling that most of us can do little over the long term about our body shape and body weight. The combination of genes and early experience plays a major role in determining what we look like as adults, and virtually all diets tend to produce only short-term changes. (Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 06:57 PM, page 2862-64)

Those nations whose citizens value personal freedom and control the most tend to have the highest suicide rates. (Thursday, September 12, 2013, 06:41 AM, page 2898)

We get what we say we want, only to discover that what we want doesn’t satisfy us to the degree that we expect. (Thursday, September 12, 2013, 06:44 AM, page 2921)

If the ability to choose enables you to get a better car, house, job, vacation, or coffeemaker, but the process of choice makes you feel worse about what you’ve chosen, you really haven’t gained anything from the opportunity to choose. (Thursday, September 12, 2013, 11:20 AM, page 2935-36)

WHEN MAKING A DECISION, IT’S USUALLY A GOOD IDEA TO THINK about the alternatives we will pass up when choosing our most-preferred option. Ignoring these “opportunity costs” can lead us to overestimate how good the best option is. (Thursday, September 12, 2013, 11:42 AM, page 2997-99)

What we don’t realize is that the very option of being allowed to change our minds seems to increase the chances that we will change our minds. (Thursday, September 12, 2013, 11:45 AM, page 3021-22)

habits of thought die hard. (Thursday, September 12, 2013, 11:49 AM, page 3046-47)

Society provides rules, standards, and norms for making choices, and individual experience creates habits. By deciding to follow a rule (for example, always wear a seat belt; never drink more than two glasses of wine in one evening), we avoid having to make a deliberate decision again and again. This kind of rule-following frees up time and attention that can be devoted to thinking about choices and decisions to which rules don’t apply. (Thursday, September 12, 2013, 04:15 PM, page 3114-17)

Choice within constraints, freedom within limits, is what enables the little fish to imagine a host of marvelous possibilities. (Thursday, September 12, 2013, 04:17 PM, page 3124-25)

published: 2013-09-12
last modified: 2023-01-21