The paradox of choice

May 31, 2020 | news

Professor of psychology Barry Schwartz author of the book:  “The paradox of choice”, gave in his TED talk a short introduction to his book. He points out the paradox that we do not experience more freedom, the more choices we have (when the number of choices is large). Nor do we become happier.  He writes that when we have many opportunities we often become paralysed, more dissatisfied with our choices. Furthermore, we then also experience a greater degree of guilt if the result of our decision is not optimal, because we had the choice and we did not succeed in taking the best, the right choice..

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz writes about choice and how the individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice, from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse. In this book from 2009 Schwartz makes the counter intuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He writes about how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on those that are important and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices made.

Just like the book the TED talk was done some years ago, but it is still extremely relevant. I would also link this to Søren Kierkegaard’s concept of anxiety, which perhaps inspired Barry Schwartz..

The Ted Talk can be seen here: