Barry Schwartz Explains the Paradox of Choice

Barry Schwartz is the author of the book, “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less“. He explains the paradox of choice where in some situations, why less choice is sometimes better.  And that is why the subtitle of his book is titled “Why More Is Less”.

In July 2005, Schwartz gave a TED Talk which you can see linked here.  He first gives examples of how our modern world has given us too much choice. And two negative consequences of this.  First is decision paralysis.  An example he gives is when a retirement plan that has more mutual fund choices resulted in less participation because members find it to hard to choose.  The second negative consequence is that even after making the choice, you are less satisfied with the choice you made.  When there are lots of choices, it is just too easy to imagine that you could have chosen better.

Near the end of he talk, he gives the secret of happiness.  And the “secret of happiness is low expectation”.

Schwartz also gave a “Google Talk” on April 27, 2006 which you can view linked here.  Schwartz does have some humor in his presentations.  For example, 44 minutes into the Google Talk video, he says “Everything was better back when everything was worst”.

Everything suffers from comparison. People have higher expectation these days which makes them feel worst.

At 45 minutes into the video, an insightful comment he makes about money and happiness is …

“What is true is that once you cross subsistence, whatever subsistence is in your society, additional increases in wealth have virtually no effect on well-being. There is a huge steep curve going from zero to subsistence. But once you cross that line of subsistence, the curve flattens out. It is worth knowing, in case you have a choice between choosing x and making more money, almost certainly choosing x is what you should do.”