Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Why More is Less Barry Schwartz

Live Life Happy Unconventional Book Club with Andrea Seydel


BARRY SCHWARTZ is Psychologist and Professor of Social theory and social action Numerous best selling books and many TED talks. World renowned expert on the psychology of work and what influences all decisions. Choice is meant to be a good thing and provide freedom. But did you know it can actually cause overwhelm, dissatisfaction, and poor choices?

Did you know there is something called choice overload. It can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them. The culture of abundance can rob us of satisfaction and can render consumer helpless. Barry Schwartz provides us with insight, whether buying jeans, selecting a doctor or vacation, everyday decisions becoming complex. THIS BOOK Examines Choice overload and provides us with tools to help end dissatisfaction, anxiety, and self doubt.


LET'S GO SHOPPING- Ever notice that there are so many options when shopping? There is comparison shopping for best prices or best features. So many options for different promises and features that can be overwhelming and impede our ability to make a choice. Schwartz show us that options increase create psychological distress and the stakes rise accordingly. Choice is everywhere; Supermarkets, gadgets, shopping by for knowledge, shopping for entertainment, good or bad choices?

NEW CHOICES-Filtering out extraneous information is one of the basics functions of consciousness. Our brains try to create cognitive pathways to make life easier and more automatic. Choice makes our brains work overtime. An example is the Utilities companies used to make decisions for you, with bundles.. now options are endless. Medical plans, retirement plans medical many options We can choose beauty.. what do you want to look like? We can choose religion, we can choose how to love, who to be... The list goes on.. You get the idea.


DECIDING AND CHOOSING-Choosing well is difficult. Decisions have dimensions Most decisions involve steps: 1. Figure out goal 2. Evaluate importance 3. Array of options 4. Evaluate options to meet goal 5. Pick the winning option 6. Later use the consequences of choice to modify goals Information gathering to follow these steps in a world with too many options can be challenging.. People are susceptible to error from the complexity of decisions and choices. Time and cognitive resources are becoming challenged and depleted. Decision requires effort and with so much choice, we are more likely able to make mistakes or question our decisions.

WHEN ONLY THE BEST WILL DO-When you seek to only accept the best you are categorized as a MAXIMIZER. Maximizers need to be assured that every purchase or decision was the best it could be. SATISFICER is to settle for something that is good enough and not worry about the possibility that there might be something better. As you can see the amount of choice can affect Maximizers and Sacrificers differently.


CHOICE & HAPPINESS: Freedom and autonomy is critical to our well-being. We have more choice then every before and yet don't seem to be benefiting. Choice meant to give us what we want in life- more autonomy. Studies on Happiness and subjective well-being show that the need to choose ever more aspects of life causes us more distress that we realize. THE DOWN SIDE of abundant choice is adds to list of trade offs. Trade offs have psychological consequences.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: Since we have so many great options, we worry that we might miss out.: Like two different vacations. We have to remember that no options will meet all desires, there will be some trade offs. With abundance of choice, each new option adds to the trade offs and creates opportunity costs. More choice also makes us have to pass up on opportunity. Trade offs in decision making makes people unhappy and indecisive. it also makes you avoid decision due to conflict, trade off and fear of missing opportunity.

IF ONLY... REGRET: The problem of regret is that we focus on what we passed up. You make a decision and it doesn't turn out well... You find an alternative that would have turned out better, which leads to REGRET. AKA: POST Decision Regret Anticipated REGRET- this can happen even before the decision is made. The problem is our brains will leave out the bad parts or omit potential reality. This is called Omission Bias. The upside of regret: is that we take decisions more seriously, imagine scenarios, look closely at decision making process.

WHY DECISIONS DISAPPOINT: Dissatisfaction with options that we choose. Adaptation plays a role in level of satisfaction. We can become disappointed int he decisions we make because of Hedonic adaptation. Adaptation to pleasure is inevitable and may cause disappointment. We also sometimes miss predict satisfaction. We must try to factor in adaptation into decision and happiness with decision. Be grateful for choices and what we have. Express gratitude

COMPARISM: Circumstances of modern life seem to be conspiring to make experiences less satisfying. This is due partly from the richness against which we are comparing our experiences. People compare for evaluation. This is dangerous in this day in age of photoshop, social media and modernism. Prospect theory-is the evaluation relative to baseline. Our baselines are way off. There is a curse of: high expectations, social comparison, status, and position. Studies show unhappy people tend to ruminate more about social comparison. Rumination about social comparison makes up more unhappy. Comparison further complicates choice making... looking around to others choices and how we measure up.

CHOICE DISAPPOINTMENT & DEPRESSION: With limitless choice; we can produce better results but we are feel worse about them. The Happiness quotient has been going gently downhill for more than a generation. Most dramatic manifestation of this decrease in societal happiness is the prevalence of clinical depression. Studies on Learned helplessness- (Seligman) States having control is crucial for psychological well-being. Choice and freedom is essential to our happiness. BUT The down side of Choice is that we blame ourselves for bad results. We compare others choices and see how we measure, we question our choices and we regret, or fear missed opportunities.


WHAT TO DO ABOUT CHOICE-As we can see, modernity turns out to be bittersweet. Overabundance of choice has down side. It has become mentally depleting. Barry Schwartz suggests the best thing you can do is to eliminate or mitigate the sources of distress.

ACTIONABLE NUGGESTS- 1. Choose when to choose: Only make choices on the things that are important to us most of the time. Which choices really matter. 2. Be a chooser, not a picker: focus on what makes a decision important. Choose according to your own goals don't pick. 3. Satisfice More & Maximize Less: Learn to accept "good enough" 4. Think of opportunity costs of opportunity costs. Avoid thinking about attractive features of options we regret. Don't compare choices once you've made decisions. 5. Make decision Non-reversible: No return policy

We are so lucky to have so many choices and the ability to choose, but the key is to limit the choice overload. We now are equipped with tools and strategies in order to effectively make decisions.

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