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New Book Summary: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

Published 7 months ago • 1 min read

We often assume that more choice is always better. But in The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, Barry Schwartz explains why it’s not quite so simple.

As usual, the key takeaways are below, and you can find the full summary by clicking the link above. In addition, I've written two blog posts on some of the ideas raised in this book:

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • In recent decades, there has been a shift towards more choice, individual autonomy and freedom in many domains.
  • But more choice does not seem to make us happier — and seems to do the opposite.
    • While objective measures such as wealth have increased, subjective well-being has not.
    • We want choice, but don’t seem to like it.
    • People who are maximisers (who try to choose the very best options), are generally less happy than satisficers (who simply choose what is “good enough”).
  • What actually makes us happy:
    • Social ties seem to make us happy, even though they actually constrain our freedom.
    • Expectations and comparisons also play a role in happiness.
  • Why too much choice makes us unhappy:
    • It increases the time and effort spent making decisions.
    • More options means we have to consider more trade-offs, and considering trade-offs makes us unhappy.
    • The more options we have, the higher our expectations of how good the outcome can be, and the more likely disappointment becomes.
    • When that happens, we only have ourselves to blame.
  • What to do about it?
    • Be aware that more choice is not always a good thing.
    • Use rules and presumptions to reduce the number of decisions you make.
    • Develop your own standards for “good enough”.
    • Stop post-decision research.
    • Practise gratitude.

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