The Paradox of Choice, by Barry Schwartz, is a book that my professor recommended to me this semester. Although I do admit that I haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet, the idea of it really grabbed my attention.
This TED video, commentated by the author himself, really sums it up:
Schwartz categorizes two types of people: “‘Maximizers,’ people who, given a choice, will exhaustively search all the options, seeking all possible information, in order to make the best possible choice”; and “‘Satisficers.’ those who settle for a choice that is ‘good enough’ for them. These people are generally happier with their choice, and spend less time choosing, leaving them free to enjoy other things.”
My parents brought me to the U.S. at a very young age to give me and my younger brother better opportunities. I am pretty certain that they thought that all the choices that would be available to us would ultimately benefit us and make us happy in our lives. Ever since middle school, my parents would tell me that I could do anything I put my mind to. While I was skeptical even at a young age, this actually helped in that I became interested in many things; I was on the swim team, played piano, tried some other sports, picked up a few casual hobbies, volunteered at various jobs, etc. When I finally got into college, my interests were so broad that I officially changed my major three times! I went from Pre-Pharmacy, to Psychology, to Economics, and finally to English. Funny enough, I chose English because I felt that my choices would be broader after graduation.
As Schwartz puts it, this abundance of choice has two negative effects:
- Produces paralysis rather than liberation: with so many options, people find it difficult to choose at all
- Even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the choice than we would be if we had fewer options to choose from
When I was accepted to Georgetown’s PR/Corp Comm master’s program, there were moments that I hesitated because I wasn’t sure if it was exactly path I wanted to take. But I’m glad I made the choice and now see myself as more of a “satisficer” than a “maximizer.”