Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Burden and Paradox of Choice

"So everywhere we look, big things and small things,
material things and lifestyle things,
life is a matter of choice."

- Barry Schwartz

Psychologist Barry Schwartz gave this insightful, yet funny talk at TED Global some years back.
This talk was recorded in July 2005 at the TED Global Conference in Oxford, England.



Highlights of this Talk:


  • The Official dogma of all Western industrial societies.
    "If we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to that is to maximize individual freedom. The reason for this is both that freedom is in and of itself good, valuable, worthwhile, essential to being human and because if people have freedom, then each of us can act on our own to do the things that will maximize our welfare and no one has to decide on our behalf."

  • The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice.

  • The more choice people have, the more freedom they have and the more welfare they have.

  • Too much choice produces paralysis rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all.

  • Opportunity costs subtract from the satisfaction of what we choose even when what we choose is terrific. And the more options there are to consider, the more attractive features of these features are going to be reflected by us as opportunity cost.


Bottom Line

God gave us free will, and with it the burden of choice.

The Burden and Paradox of Choice



Following are some reasons why choice can make people miserable:

  1. Regret and anticipated regret

  2. Opportunity costs

  3. Escalation of expectations

  4. Self-blame


Watch and download the above Barry Schartz TED Talk here. Or directly download the video (zipped MP4, 64MB) here.

Let us learn, share and advance.

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