Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice

Stripes of Gold


Barry Schwartz’s “The Paradox of Choice” remains one of the greatest TED talks I’ve heard. Incisive and comprehensively applicable, the way he connects choice psychology to marketing, human welfare and social policy is masterful.

The basic idea is as follows: Humans value choices. And it has often been assumed that too little choice is inhibiting. Thus every year, we have more choices than we did the year before. This has psychological implications which affect every one of us. Due to the escalation of expectations, too much choice is unfavorable, if not equally so compared with too little choice, which suggests there is clearly some optimal amount of choice.

Have we struck this balance, or are we bogged down daily with a deluge of unnecessary options which belabor decision-making? Is there such a balance? What might it look like?

This ideas presented here have far-ranging implications for everything from department store models, online shopping and general consumerism to academia and video games.

If you shatter the fish bowl so that everything is possible, you don’t have freedom; you have paralysis and decreased satisfaction. Everybody needs a fishbowl. The absence of a fishbowl is a recipe for misery and disaster.



External link: Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice

Feature image: “Stripes of Gold” by