“”Although some choice is undoubtedly better than none, more is not always better than less….They found that increased choice and increased influence have been accompanied by a decrease in well-being.” We know too much choice troubles children but it appears that it troubles adults too.
Because free will is the very thing that makes us human, we naturally assume choice is a good thing. And from there, it’s logical, perhaps, to think that because having options is good, the more choice we have the better.
Well, stop the presses. Scientific American is reporting that recent research “strongly suggests” that, psychologically speaking, that assumption is wrong.
In an article titled, ‘The Tyranny of Choice’, Barry Schwartz, professor of social theory and social action at Swarthmore College, wrote: “Although some choice is undoubtedly better than none, more is not always better than less.”
Schwartz, who is also the author of “Maximizing Versus Satisficing: Happiness is a Matter of Choice,” points to studies by David Myers of Hope College and Robert Lane of Yale University, who conducted surveys on individual well being.
They found that increased choice and increased influence have been accompanied by a decrease in well-being.
“As the gross domestic product more than doubled in the past 30 years, the proportion of the population describing itself as ‘very happy’ declined by about 5 percent, or some 14 million people,” Schwartz writes. And more Americans are clinically depressed than at any other time in our history. Schwartz is quick to point out that no single factor explains America’s blues. However, “a number of findings indicate that the explosion of choice plays an important role.”
Schwartz conducted his own research and, in doing so, categorizes his subjects into “maximizers” and “satisficers.”
Maximizers are “those who always aim to make the best possible choice” and satisficers are “those who aim for ‘good enough’.”
Through Schwartz’s study, it was found that maximizers are the least happy. “Naturally, no one can check every option, but maximizers strive toward that goal, and so making a decision becomes increasingly daunting as the number of choices rises.
“In the end, they are more likely to make better objective choices than satisficers but get less satisfaction from them,” Schwartz writes. MORE
See also “Overloaded, overdosed, overstimulated, ultimately just plain unclear“
The new Scientific American has an article suggesting that we’re all half psychotic with too many choices. The piece is called THe Tyranny of Choice’–research shows that the notion that more choice is always better is wrong. They’re not talking about dualistic choices like a woman’s right to choose, or whether or not to get married, they’re talking about the vast numbers of choices available in daily life: shopping choices, vast numbers of media choices, schooling, career directions, appearance, therapy or not and what kind, business deals, decorating, ballot measures, vacation choices, choice of health care modes and insurance, technology choices and on and on. THeir study concluded that having no choices makes people very unhappy, having some choices make them happy–but too many choices makes them depressed, crazed with uncertainty, miserable. They suggest there are two basic types of choosers, Maximizers and Satisficers. The former aim to make the best possible choice in a near obsessive way, the latter tend to settle for ‘good enough’. Maximizers spend a long time shopping, can’t make up their minds what to buy for a gift, channel surf like a cokehead searching through the rug for fallen powder…
Maximizers in particular are prone to unhappiness in our society–there are too many choices, just too damn much input in general, and they can’t deal with it. Satisficers are having a hard time too; they tend to go to lower stress options–and those are harder to find. But they’re less likely to be depressed and suicidal