Paradox of choice

Picture by Amnesiac86 from Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered what could you do to take your life easier? Let me give you a small piece of advice: reduce the choices you have to make everyday.

To be honest, this idea is not originally mine. The idea belongs to Barry Schwartz. Barry Schwartz is an American psychologist that has been working and researching in the field of social psychology. He has published some books, among them The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

To be even more honest, the idea has been researched by other scientists too, and it is in some of these experiments that Schwartz bases his theory. However, the experiments seem to be unable to be replicated (this means that the results are contradictory when repeated). No doubt that’s why it has been facing a lot of controversy lately.

All in all, the first time I saw and read about The Paradox of Choice I felt like it was just empty talk, and that it would not affect my life at all. But is it by using these ideas that you get to improve your everyday life, reducing stress.

You probably had the idea that having more leads to more happiness, and this is something that we all thought, specially when comparing western culture with developing countries. But many studies show that having a lot of choices can lead us to less happiness. This may be because having to make choices through our day can make our life full of stress, sometimes even leading to paralysis of election(not being able to choose anything).

But don’t only listen to me, successful and influential people of our times such as Mark Zuckerberg or the President of the US Barack Obama follow this theory. They decided to wear the same or almost the same clothes every day. Here Obama talking about it in an interview for Vanity Fair: “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” Mark Zuckerberg puts it this way: “I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible, other than how to best serve this community“.

Either if you trust these famous people or not, or if you trust the scientific studies or not, there is a part of truth about all of these to which we all can relate. We all have had that moment of choosing paralysis, we all have hated having to choose. Schwartz uses the experiments to explain in a great way something that was unbelievable to think in a capitalist world, that more choice can be worse.

You can see it explained by himself:



As I told above, there are already a lot of detractors of The Paradox of Choice. In every behavioral and cognitive science, the only thing that is true is that there is always more to discover. Of course not every choice can be compared in the same way, and maybe in some cases it can be positive to have many choices. Probably each of us have areas in which we can easily choose between hundreds of options, but in others we get stacked when offered three. When it comes to me, I think I can live a healthier life with less choices surrounding me. What about you?


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