Is Choice Bad?

The Line Between Clarity and Chaos: An Interview with Barry Schwartz

Maybe this will make a Calvinist out of me… choice may be bad for us. Too much choice, that is. Barry Schwartz is the author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. Here’s a snippet from the interview to give you an idea of what it’s all about:

In 50 years of research and psychology, there is study after study showing that people who are able to choose X were more satisfied than people who simply got X. But in all of those studies, the contrast was always with two options. And if two options are better than no choice, then three must be better than two, and four must be better than three, and so on. But no one ever studied that…

But it’s only in the last five years that people have started doing research where instead of having two options, people have 20. Or 200. And when you cross a line (and you are probably going to ask me “where’s the line?” and I’m going to say, “I don’t know; nobody knows”), choice goes from being beneficial to being paralyzing. So one effect of too many choices is that people can’t choose at all.

I think that this is prophetic for the times that we live in. I’ve seen how this is a major contributer to apathy in our lives: there’s simply too much to choose from.

There’s also a whole lot about the specific problems that the information age is creating amongst consumers of information. Fascinating. Read this.

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