The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less

‘THE PARADOX OF CHOICE: WHY MORE IS LESS’


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OPENING LINE:

You could choose whether or not to read this review. However, to reduce your stress level and increase your happiness, I’m just going to tell you to read it. You’re welcome!


PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY:

In the spirit of Alvin Tofflers’ Future Shock, a social critique of our obsession with choice, and how it contributes to anxiety, dissatisfaction and regret.
Whether we’re buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions – both big and small – have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.
We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.
In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice – the hallmark of 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.
©2004 Barry Schwartz (P)2010 Audible, Inc.


THE PLOT:

We face a lot of choices in our daily life. What kind of cereal should we buy? Where should we go to eat tonight? What outfit should we wear? What kind of car should we buy? What job is ideal? What city should we live in? Who should we date? Where should we attend religious services? I could go on and on, and according to ‘The Paradox of Choice’ author Barry Schwartz therein lies the problem.
Schwartz argues that all of those choices and choices within choices are not making our lives any easier, that they are in fact making them more difficult and causing us to become more anxious and depressed.
One of Schwartz’s arguments is that the more choices you have, the harder it is to make a decision or the more likely you are to regret it. I have over 600 books in my audiobook library. It is much more difficult to find something to listen to than it was when I only had 50 books, and as a result sometimes I end up listening to nothing at all.
‘The Paradox of Choice’ is broken down into four sections. The first section, When We Choose, looks at the large volume of choices we make in our lives from the mundane to the very important. The second section is How We Choose, which examines how people behave when confronted with certain types of choices. The third section is Why We Suffer, and that examines the potential consequences of unlimited choices. The final section, What We Could Do about It, is Schwartz’s argument for how we can reduce our number of choices and enjoy freedom through limitation.
Along the way you will learn about topics such as: Framing, Prospect Theory, Loss Aversion, Buyer’s Remorse and more. Each of these concepts comes with an explanation and history of the theory as well as examples of experiments performed and studies conducted to test the hypothesis.
You will also be able to determine if you are a Maximizer (someone who is looking for the best thing possible) or a Satisficer (someone who is looking to meet a standard that is “good enough”), and how these decision making attitudes cope with the abundance of choices we have access to every day of our lives.
‘The Paradox of Choice’ challenges the conventional wisdom that more is always better. The author makes a compelling argument that the best choice we can make is to reduce the number of choices we make.
I’m not sure that this is easily done across the entire spectrum. Sure, it might be easy for me to limit myself to only considering 5 types of breakfast cereals. But for things like music, books, movies and so on there is still something to be said for exploration. One could argue that if I had decided that my audiobook library were big enough,  I wouldn’t have purchased Schwartz’s book when I became aware of it and would have missed out as a result.


THE AUTHOR:

Barry Schwartz is a psychologist and a professor at Swarthmore College. He has written several books concerning human behavior.
The fact that Schwartz uses numerical lists, particularly in the final chapter concerning what we can do about all of these choices, is appreciated. It makes it that much easier to reference again as needed.


THE NARRATION:

Ken Kliban’s performance is really a mixed bag. On the good side of things, he reads at a nice pace and with good inflection, stressing key words.
On the negative side of things, he takes some awkward pauses, sometimes in the middle of sentences where no pause is needed. I attribute this in part to the much more annoying problem. He can constantly be heard taking in breaths of air. When breathing on the track is done for acting purposes I have no issue with it, but otherwise it is becoming my top annoyance when it comes to evaluating a performance. It detracts from my listening experience and the grade comes down as a result.


THE PRODUCTION:

There is a brief bit of music to open and close the book, but otherwise no music or other sound effects are used on the track. The Audible chapter stops sync up perfectly with the book’s 11 chapters, which is ideal.
There’s not much else that can be said about the track. It is free of defect and the volume is at a consistent level throughout.


CONCLUSION:

There is still debate, some ten years after the book was originally published, as to whether the ‘Paradox of Choice’ is a real phenomena. Ironically, that is yet one more thing for the listener to have to decide. However, Schwartz makes his case in a easily understood way that is informative and probably relatable to most all Americans.


QUICK FACTS:

Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Stars
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less Barry Schwartz Ken Kliban Audible Studios Science and Technology 09/07/2015 7 hours, 6 minutes 3.5/5

DISCLAIMER:

A copy of ‘THE PARADOX OF CHOICE: WHY MORE IS LESS’ was purchased from Audible for review.

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One thought on “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less

  1. Pingback: September 2015 Audiobook Thread: Stats, Purchases and Reads | Random Catastrophe

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