“The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less”

Too much choice can make us miserable.

That’s what Psychologist Barry Schwartz, a professor at Swarthmore College, argues in his talk, The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less (website), part of the Google Tech Talk series, which presents videos of lectures given by prominent academics, inventors and writers who visit the Google campus.

Some highlights of the lecture:

  • Too much choice leads to decision paralysis. For example, researchers looked at investment records of one million employees, and asked the question, “How does the number of mutual funds that the employer makes available affect the rate at which employees participate?” They discovered that for every 10 additional funds the employer made available, the participation went down 2%.  Confronted by too much choice, many employees opted not to choose at all, even forgoing the generous matching contribution from their employers.
  • People who spend a lot of time searching for the “best option,” end up being less satisfied than people who spend less time, and settle on “good enough.”
  • Many of us are troubled by time pressure. But we feel more time pressure when we think about pleasurable options of what to do in our spare time than when we think about the chores on our to-do lists.

It’s all interesting food for thought, especially the idea that we can make ourselves happier by lowering our expectations and not spending too much time searching for the perfect car, the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect spouse.

You can hear an audio podcast of Schwartz speaking at IT-Conversations.

(Technical note: On Google video,look for the “download – iPod/PSP” link, and you can download the video for later viewing on your video enabled iPod or MP3 player.)

This entry was posted in Five-star professors, Idea of the week, Lectures, Psychology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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