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 were 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.
Gav's Notes Review (like Cliff Notes...read below for a full review)
In keeping with my usual form, I present my grade of 3 stars (read below for what that means to me.)
The two things I did not like the most about the book.
a) The cramming down my throat about how horrible the author feels about how many options we have...like all the different college classes available or the number of jeans available.
b) The fabricating of facts to justify the above feelings...i.e. using Havard and Princeton as examples for how many options college students have in picking a degree and how there is no foundation of education classes in college anymore. I would say about 95% of schools require their student to fulfill a core curriculum and its hardly proof to the contrary when a couple ivy league school choose a different route.
The two things I like/took away from the book
a) choices do not equal freedom, therefore having more choices does not make us more free...he goes on about how many people think this to be true and I think he has a good point. He then goes south and hypotheses that our palathra of choices leads to things like clinical depression and others psychological problems that have increased with more choices. He doesn't prove this to be causation or even present evidence that this is more than correlation, just states it as his opinion...what?!?!
b) I like some of the examples he makes and points he brings up. I found the most value in the more subtle points he mentions like how more options wastes time if we try to research most or all of them and how we generally find a characteristic, i.e. a brand, to limit our choices and once we make a choice we generally do not re-evaluate the choices once new options are presented.
Overall it is an interesting read, provided you can tune out the "preaching" of the author. The narrator seems a bit off for this book and grates on the ears, in my opinion, or maybe I was already bothered by the words he was saying so he seemed to bother me too.
Either way the book is worth a read but I would get it on sale or from the library. its not helped by being 10 years old so the authors doom and gloom hypothesis seems foolish now.
1 Star = I could not finish it
2 Stars = I finished it but would not recommend it to a friend.
3 Stars = I read it and would recommend it but do not plan on reading it again.
4 Stars = I read it, recommend it and would read it again
5 Stars = I read it, recommend it and will add it to my annual reading collection
Usually when an author has a point to make they realize its best to present the evidence and let the listener draw their own conclusions. That is the point of critical thinking.
However, this author presents all evidence like it is the downfall of society, from the number of classes the average college student can pick form now, vs what he did in college...to the number of TV shows one can pick when including the "Tivo" options of today, when one can record any TV show. He worried that "two people hanging around the water cooler will have no shows in common because of all the choices." The fallacy is obvious 10 years later, with Netflix and other services allowing even more options there are still hit TV shows that everyone watches.
And this shows the true value of this book. Not so much in the points the author tries to shove down your throat but in the subtler points he makes about topics like time waisted with more options and his best point, choices do not equal freedom, therefore more choices do not equal greater freedom.
I have given up on listening because the narration is so poor and there's not enough insight or original thought to overcome that problem. Maybe the basic idea can't be stretched out into a full-length book.
Unknown, I need to finish this one, but the download is faulty and I can't finish listening to it.
I would recommend the book but not the audible version.
The book has a significant lack of emphasis on research and a lot of anecdotal and situational evidence but makes strong arguments nonetheless. The idea could be summarized in 10 pages easily but is greatly expounded in a much larger format with in depth, although biased, analysis. Nudge is a similar book that seems more based on research but is still very biased. Both books, however, help a business owner identify how to help formulate the choices that are available to their consumers.
The narrator was very difficult to listen to which is surprising from someone who has narrated so many books. Enunciation was all over the place with significant emphasis placed in seemingly every word.
Interesting and often times counter intuitive, which is the point more often than not. I feel that I have gained a greater understanding of the unhappiness of the modern world. I would often be reminded of the Devo anthem, " freedom of choice, is what you got. Freedom from choice, is what you want." I love the results of the many interesting experiments.
Most of the concepts in the book are familiar to fans of pop psychology. The author also occasionally makes logically questionable claims. For example, he suggests that the explosion of choice is substantially responsible for the increasing rates of depression in America in recent decades, ignoring somewhat more likely culprits such as obesity, improved diagnostics and reduced stigma. He also gets pretty repetitive after a while; in some ways, I'd have preferred reading this one paperback so I could skip the boring parts (e.g., the opening 15 minute trip through the supermarket. We get it already! We saw it coming a mile off!). After listening to this book, I will look for more opportunities in my life to satisfice, rather than optimize, so it has been persuasive in that regard. Perhaps worth listening to once, to be convinced on that point, but I'm probably not going to re-listen to this one too many times.
The author comes off as a very old man who just can't get used to the fact that you actually have choices in what jeans you can buy. He just keeps ranting on and on about the exact number of types of cereals etc he found at the store. One such story could have been a good example, but he just keeps droning on and on.
He did an okay job, not sure you can make this material interesting no matter how you read it.
It worked really well as a sleeping "pill". If I was having trouble sleeping, I would listen to this as it is so boring that I usually feel asleep pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I mean that quite literally.
Part pop psychology, part behavioral economics, part self-help book, 'The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less' points out all the ways in which a super-abundance of choice is often not a good thing, touching on responsibility, regret, gratitude, opportunity costs, expectations, social status, search costs, subjective vs. objective satisfaction and more. We're introduced to the concepts of 'maximizers' and 'satisficers' – people who need to know that they've made the best possible choice from all the alternatives, and people who make choices based on standards they have set themselves. (As the author points out, we're often maximizers in some areas and satisficers in others.) He makes compelling arguments that satisficers are happier than maximizers with the choices they make, and goes on to suggest strategies for training yourself to become a satisficer in more areas of your life.
I thought this last part was less convincing – as someone married to an inveterate maximizer, I'm not convinced it would be possible to change this personality trait. Still, just being aware of the problems of trying to be a maximizer is no doubt a step in the right direction.
Some of the book feels a little repetitive, and some areas are a little wordy (over explaining some pretty obvious points) – I thought it could probably have been edited down by 10-15%.
As for this Audible production, I really liked the narrator (in contrast to many other reviewers, it seems). He kind of reminded me of Frasier's younger brother, Niles. OK, I can see how that might be annoying . . . but I thought it suited the material well.
Not sure, it is a bit academic
Again, quite academic. Not sure that this book works as an audiobook.
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