I discovered The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, through a TED talk (after the jump) — I haven’t read it yet, but it looks quite interesting.


“In this revolutionary and beautifully reasoned book, Barry Schwartz shows that there is vastly too much choice in the modern world. This promiscuous amount of choice renders the consumer helpless and dissatisfied. The Paradox of Choice is a must read for every thoughtful person.”
— Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness

“The Paradox of Choice carries a simple yet profoundly life-altering message for all Americans. Based on new research, Barry Schwartz explores why we want more choices when the best possible choice is already at hand, and how the creation of this “choice overload” undermines good decision-making. His eleven practical, simple steps to becoming less choosy will change much in your daily life. Buy this book now!”
— Philip G. Zimbardo, author of Shyness: What It Is, What to Do About It

“Today’s world offers us more choices but, ironically, less satisfaction. In this provocative and riveting book, Barry Schwartz shines the light of psychological science on popular culture and shows us steps we can take toward a more rewarding life. This is one of those rare books I just couldn’t put down.”
— David G. Myers, author of Intuition: Its Powers and Perils


Category: Books, Psychology

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13 Responses to “The Paradox of Choice”

  1. PeterR says:

    Great stuff!

    Listening with the ears of Steve Jobs (his Stanford graduation speech linked a couple of days ago), one realizes that not only is the “best choice” probably already present, but that it likely has already been made, in one’s heart of hearts.

    The task then becomes simply to recognize what has already been cast in stone, to allow the awareness of that choice to arise from within.

    Of course the verbal mind still needs to have a chit-chatty conversation about the whole issue, as if the choice has not yet been made!

    “Chocolate or vanilla?”


    No think!

  2. call me sally says:

    This book’s been out a while – seems to me I read it 5,6,7 years ago. The take away – if I remember correctly is that when confronted with too many choices people are unable to actually make a choice.

  3. martin66 says:

    This is an excellent book and explores why, to paraphrase Jerry Brown in a previous incarnation, “more can be less.” The book did not receive the attention I would have thought it merited when it was released. It is one of my few keepers in a crowded field, sitting on my bookshelf, right next to Thinking Fast and Slow and Stumbling on Happiness.

  4. jib10 says:

    I have not read the book but the truth of this is clear in my own biz (software/internet). During the sales cycle, as soon as you ask a customer a question that they dont know the answer to, you lose them. And in software it seems they wont know the answer to just about any question you would ask them. You need to give enough info that assures them that your product will solve their problem. And no more.

    And shut up about all the options. Feature creep is death to the sales cycle. You add some obscure feature that may appeal to 3% of your customers and you lose 5% of your previous customers when you confuse them by explaining the why and how of the new feature.

  5. Woof says:

    DEVO said it first and best (from “Freedom of Choice”)

    Freedom of choice
    Is what you got
    Freedom of choice!

    In ancient Rome
    There was a poem
    About a dog
    Who found two bones
    He picked at one
    He licked the other
    He went in circles
    He dropped dead

    Freedom of choice
    Is what you got
    Freedom FROM choice
    Is what you want

  6. Internet Tourettes says:

    This book should be read along with “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg which address human behavour when there is too many choices.

  7. Arequipa01 says:

    David Foster Wallace, the author of The Infinite Jest, gave a keynote speech at Kenyon College in 2005 in which he addressed the issue of choice in current US culture, from a more existential point of view.

    Someone posted a recording of it to YouTube under the title- This is Water:


    Some here may find it interesting.

  8. dream-king says:

    The Greek Diner Effect.

  9. Arequipa01 says:

    Sorry. Not trying to be spoiler, just wanted to share.

  10. rd says:

    As an engineer, our design and construction projects are always filled with decisions. Paralysis costs money….a lot of money, so Yogi Berra’s great philospohical statement “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” has resonated with me over the years. Most people don’t like taking responsibility for decisions so they will often waffle endlessly even though the aggregate cost of doing nothing far exceeds the cost of doing something something. Many people do not realize that not making a decision is actually making a decision to not make a decision with its own set of consequences.

    In enegineering we calculate what will cause failure and then apply a safety factor to it to provide some buffer (the actual process is often simple but there are many levels of complexity buried in that surficial simplicity). At that point, anything that has an adequate safety factor is now an acceptable choice from a straight safety standpoint. The next decision levels are cost and schedule. After those three factors are out of the way, almost every other factor becomes cosmetic or personal preference unless there is a public relations perspective that needs to be addressed. If somebody then has a personal preference, then that happens – otherwise, we just make a specific decision with detailed dimensions etc., even though they may be decided somewhat aribtrarily just so that there isn’t any more analysis paralysis during actual execution.

    As my kids move into the workforce, I work with them to set-up their 401ks and IRAs with good, low cost Target Date or similar all-in-one funds because I don’t want them getting lost in the maze of fund choices which they don’t understand. Instead, they can simply focus on maximizing how much they save instead of decisions regarding what to save it in. These days it is not difficult to get good all-in-one choices in 401ks and IRA with less than 0.6% fees, so optimizing their accounts is much more about getting them to save more than any other single decision. Since they are in just one fund and they tend to not check on them very often there is also little temptation for them to start moving money between choices – that would take more energy to research than they are willing to expend right now.

  11. This will be going on my list of books to read (growing by the day…). It is an unfortunate trait I am certainly beset with. When I have no money to invest, I could tell you exactly where I would put it if I did have some. However, when I have a bit and am looking to invest it, it can take weeks for me to decide where to direct it. I guess it is a case of mistakenly believing there is never a perfect solution so holding back is the better option. In reality, just taking a good option early can be far better than waiting years for a perfect solution.

    I’m interested to see if this book offers any practical advice to aid in overcoming this reticence.