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3/05/2005

I'm adding this to my wish list:

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

I've been fascinated with what I refer to as the "burden of too many choices" for years now. It looks like this book addresses just that. Read this excerpt from the excellent Powell's review by Doug Brown:


"In the film 'Moscow on the Hudson,' Robin Williams plays a Communist-era Russian defector in New York City. In a memorable scene, he goes to a supermarket for coffee; encountering an aisle full of different brands of coffee to choose from, he faints from the overload, mumbling the word "coffee" over and over. Barry Schwartz understands the feeling. Schwartz is not a "let's get back to the good old days when we had nothing and liked it" Luddite; he acknowledges the freedom to make choices is a vital part of the richness of our lives. The paradox is that the more options we have, the less satisfied we often are with the choices we make.

Schwartz splits people into maximizers and satisficers. Maximizers feel the need to try all possible options; they have to find the very best one. Satisficers are willing to try a few things and select that which is good enough. Studies suggest that maximizers are often less happy with their choices than satisficers, largely because maximizers are more emotionally invested in those choices. Maximizers spend much more time and energy making choices; instead of going to one store and trying a couple of items, they must go to all the stores and try all the items."
I wonder if Schwartz applies his theories to the dating scene in big cities. I've often thought it's harder for maximizer-types to settle down and choose a mate when they live in a huge city like Manhattan, knowing that there's a slew of new candidates around every corner. Think about a smaller community, where there is a finite number of eligible mates in your age range -- it might be easier to make a choice and stick with what you've got. But with the advent of internet dating, even people in small communities can expand their search to anywhere around the world. Makes me wonder about how beneficial all this "progress" really is for us. I can't wait to read this.

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