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The Paradox of Choice (Too much choice?)

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It may be easy to throw away his views as false and stupid just because you don't like them, however you may do so unjustifiably. There are experiments which show some of points he is discussing (e.g. this).

That doesn't mean that I agree with everything he says. On the contrary, I think that his conclusions are sometimes wrong, but that doesn't make the whole talk untrue.

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I have indeed found myself indecisive at times when faced with a lot of choices. But I really think knowing what you want going into it will help you be more decisive and pick a choice without all that worrying and suffering over alternatives.

I think the guy in the video just doesn't want to have the responsibility of having to choose for himself. I can't believe he had the gall to say that choice is a large contributing factor in depression and suicide.

EDIT:

Not to ignore the study. I think studies that support his arguments show that a lot of people out there are like him. Choice may really overwhelm people, but only because they're already too indecisive to, well, decisively make a choice and not worry about the alternatives.

If there really are people out there who suffer from too many choices, I think they need to pick up philosophy. :P

Edited by Amaroq
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It may be easy to throw away his views as false and stupid just because you don't like them, however you may do so unjustifiably.

Indeed. I grant you that. But I was offended by his opening reference to dogma and the notion that freedom is a matter of consumer options. When I think of freedom, I don't think about how many cell phones I can choose from. I think of property rights. He belittles the concept of freedom.

There are experiments which show some of points he is discussing (e.g. this).

That doesn't mean that I agree with everything he says. On the contrary, I think that his conclusions are sometimes wrong, but that doesn't make the whole talk untrue.

I don't see the need to waste my time on it.

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I have indeed found myself indecisive at times when faced with a lot of choices. But I really think knowing what you want going into it will help you be more decisive and pick a choice without all that worrying and suffering over alternatives.

That's basically the point. As far as I know, it has been found that more choice is worse in cases because the chooser ruminate about other possibilities. He thinks about what he could have had and how much better it would have been and that diminishes his satisfaction from the chosen product (or alternative in general). What is interesting is that people often choose to have more options and that leave them worse of because they don't anticipate that they will ruminate about the choice aftewards. (I think that Dan Gilbert talks about it in this TED talk).

I think the guy in the video just doesn't want to have the responsibility of having to choose for himself. I can't believe he had the gall to say that choice is a large contributing factor in depression and suicide.

Those are some of the conclusions I don't agree with.

EDIT:

Not to ignore the study. I think studies that support his arguments show that a lot of people out there are like him. Choice may really overwhelm people, but only because they're already too indecisive to, well, decisively make a choice and not worry about the alternatives.

If there really are people out there who suffer from too many choices, I think they need to pick up philosophy. :P

I don't think that the problem is that much in indecisiveness. And there are probably many people like him and I don't think that philosophy hepls that much in this case. What may help on the other hand is knowing the underlying mechanism of this effect. That's why I think it may be unwarranted just to say that the talk is bullshit and not take anything from it.

There is some kind of test which should measure how much choice has detrimental effect on satisfaction. It's based on the explanation that it's the rumination what leads to lower satisfaction with more choice. The test measure whetehr you are a satisficer or maximizer and it hase been shown that maximizers derive less pleasure form more choices and it's because they want the best one alternative which is quite hard when they have a lot of them. (I may be a bit mistaken there, haven't read the studies, but I think this is basically the idea)

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This is a common critique of capitalism. I suspect less that he doesn't want to have so many choices, and more that he wants to do the choosing in some particular sphere of control. In any case, this just demonstrates that people in a modern age need better, more relevant basic education.

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I find myself most indecisive when confronted with too little choice. I recall a restaurant that had only about 10 items on the menu, which is odd for a semi-fancy italian place. I couldn't make up my mind, because most choices, such as they were, appeared quite unappealing.

When faced with too many choices, something common when planning a vacation or shopping for a car, I've no trouble at all, provided I know what I want and am not pressed for time.

There's also the issue of infroamtion. Sometimes you're faced with lots of choices but know next to nothing about any of them. The thing to do then is to research. These days research is easier than ever before thanks to the tools made available through the internet.

I think many of the people who can't make up their minds don't really know what they want. For example, if you're buying shoes, you should know what you want the shoes for (where and in what situation you will wear them), what kind of shoe do you want (stylish, comfortable, cheap, etc), otherwise you'll just stare at shoes and ahve no notion of what's best for you.

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Here's a riddle: What does the man who doesn't face any choices have in common with the man who has a zero carbon footprint?
They're both dead.

Exactly. As long as you're alive, you get to make choices, and you don't get to make choices unless you are alive. So being able to make choices is (for man) logically EQUIVALENT to being alive. To advocate against choices is to advocate against life.

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I think the solution to wasting time deliberating choices is to make a secondary choice about making a decision time limit. For example, limit yourself to deliberating over the best netbook to buy for only 1 hour of focussed research (or whatever, depending on your income). Get direction to the best reviews online, get pointed to the netbooks that look most valuable for you, and then just make a choice at the end of that hour. There is probably no point deliberating the minutae, such as, "The ASUS netbook is $30 more expensive but comes with a touchpad, whereas the Acer netbook is $30 cheaper." If you have a fairly good job, then your time is valuable and the opportunity cost for deliberating over this stuff rather than just buying increases. Who really cares about the $30 if it took you 3 extra hours of research to save it? You could make that in less than an hour, generally. That's my policy now since I've spend too much time on these things in the past. As long as the time saved is reinvested into production, creation, or peace of mind on your behalf, it will be worth it.

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*** Mod's note: Merged with an earlier thread on a similar topic. - sN ***

http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=wyvbu28pe3

What a crock of shit.

I'm sorry sir, but the choices aren't what's paralyzing your mind. You're just not decisive enough to know what the hell you want. :D

One of the coolest things about shopping via the web is the massive number of options you have for so many things you buy. When I want to buy something carefully, I often do a google search for reviews and prices, then once I find what I want I look for the store with the best price/service. It's awesome. I mean, just for something as simple as a guitar capo I found that research gave me a quality product with a reasonable cost. The capo is such a simple thing, but there is a little bit of pleasure in the fact that I made a smart purchase on such a small item. I often think to myself, man this is a clever design, and then I pat myself on the back for being smart enough to buy it. The same for my guitar, my computer, etc. etc. These massive number of choices really improve the quality of my life.

Now for some things, often of lesser interest to me, I have to make quick selections. For those things I learn slowly what I like and don't like, but it's always nice to know that if I want to get serious about something I usually have a ton of options at my behest thanks to capitalism.

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  • 6 months later...

Appropriate to your title is this video, which was already posted, by the psychologist and author, Barry Schwartz:

The Paradox of Choice

After viewing the video and reading brief descriptions of two books that he authored, "The Paradox of Choice" and

"The Costs of Living" it seems to me that he is a socialist. In the video he advocates for the redistribution of some

of our many choices to those who have fewer, saying that redistribution of choices will help both societies. According

to him western civilization is burdened with too many choices that can lead to paralysis rather than freedom.

What the hell is he talking about when he says that as a matter of policy, complicated choices make us worse off,

and that there is some magical amount of choices that when exceeded can become too taxing??

On a side note, but nonetheless related, has anyone read his book "The cost of Living"? I don't think I want to after

reading a few editorial reviews on Amazon:

"Addressing the psychic toll exacted by too fervent a pursuit of money, power, and position, he catalogs many disturbing features of our time: predatory corporations, the status of medicine and law as self-regulating monopolies, the commercialization of professional sports. Ultimately, he concludes that we must sacrifice some individual freedom for community values and ``reform our institutions so that being a good person is less costly.'' -Kirkus Reviews

"In this book, psychologist Barry Schwartz unravels how market freedom has insidiously expanded its reach into domains where it does not belong. He shows how this trend developed from a misguided application of the American value of individuality and self-pursuit, and how it was aided by our turning away from the basic social institutions that once offered traditional community values." -Product description

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I used to work at an ice cream shop with about 30 flavors. Lots of people who came in complained that there were "too many choices."

I never got it. What's wrong with having a bunch of ice cream flavors to choose from?

Not enough money to buy all 30 of them.

It could also be that, even if they had the money to spare, they'd have to keep coming back the next day and the suspense would kill them.

It could also be that they're worried that by the time they afford another one, the flavor they anticipated will be gone

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The only place I've come across too much choice is Subway.

You have to go through a damn interrogation to get a sandwich.

You clearly haven't bought gas (petrol) in the US then. Some pumps you have to answer 5 questions (only one of which is selecting the grade of gasoline) before you can finally pump the damned gas. Five questions when you have three choices!!

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You clearly haven't bought gas (petrol) in the US then. Some pumps you have to answer 5 questions (only one of which is selecting the grade of gasoline) before you can finally pump the damned gas. Five questions when you have three choices!!

Ridiculous! With five questions there ought to be at least 32 choices.

John Link

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