The Paradox of Choice: More is Less

You might find this useful if you are involved any way in Expectation Management, Sales, Promotion, Pricing, Service Definition, Influencing the decisions of others and Overcoming Procrastination.

I attended a Surrey Economic Partnership meeting on Tuesday to hear Jon Smith’s talk on Behavioural Economics, basically because I’m so interested in information overload and its impact on our choices and behaviour.

Jon’s excellent presentation reminded me of the research of Barry Schwartz, who did a lot of work on ‘The Paradox of Choice’ (see a favourite video below)and I got the impression that what he was saying was based upon his respect for Schwartz’ work, among others. So, yesterday evening I revisited some of my references to this, which I share with you below in the hope you might find them useful.

Meanwhile here’s my 5 take-away bullet points from Jon expertly presented key paradoxes – all of which have a major impact in how, what, why and when we make choices:

• We like the idea of choice but we don’t always use it
• We resist shutting down options, however we can be better off if we do
• Too much choice stops us deciding (one of my many mantras is ‘Choice paralyses people into procrastination’ based upon one of Schwartz quotes: ‘Choice paralyzes people into indecision.”
• Limiting choice can improve results
• Being a Maximiser (see below) can be hard on you.

Maximiser = Diligently investigates all options over time and looks to make the best possible decision before committing to it. Post decision will evaluate against the best again, high risk of post decision regret.
Satisficer = Narrows down options from which to choose, don’t compare their decisions to others, commits to what will meet defined needs pragmatically, generally feel more positive about their decision with less post decision regret.

Here’s my favourite resources:
For Book based learners – especially if you want to link this stuff into any work you are doing on yourself in the areas like ‘Personal Happiness’:  Schwartz book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less.

For the Analytics and deep detail divers among you:  The American Psychological Association paper which Schwartz contributed to: Maximizing Versus Satisficing: Happiness Is a Matter of Choice

For the Visual learners an excellent 20 minute video on TED below. Watch it instead of the News tonight – it will probably be better for you!

Our proven training and support solutions address many of the issues and barriers raised in this article. You are welcome to contact us to see how we migh tailor a support programme to your needs.

By |2019-01-24T13:32:45+00:00June 12th, 2009|Time Management and Prioritisation tips|3 Comments


  1. […] are: 1) The impact of Continuous Partial Attention and Multitasking. They are not the same! 2) The paradox of  choice: More is less – we need to be careful about this! 3) The business demands around speed of response / reaction […]

  2. Benjamin June 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Good take aways. Check out Dan Gilbert too (link in “too much choice too little happiness”).

  3. Laura June 12, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Love the video – its reality! I’m off girlie shoping tomorrow, helping a friend to buy a new pair of jeans – he thinks he has a tough time. Take 3 girls, add a little wine over lunch, a whole high street of shops, and 3 hours searching. I wonder how many jeans we will reject before we find the ‘right’ ones – enjoy your weekend Richard

Leave A Comment

This website uses cookies and third party services. Ok