The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz [Book Summary – Review]


In nowaday’s rich community, we encounter on a daily basis an infinite set of decisions, starting from the fashion we choose to the food we eat at lunch break. It’s all about the decision that provides us with satisfaction and allows us to be ourselves. Or that’s what we believe.

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The Paradox of Choice switches this common sense upside down and suggests that to encounter affluence of choice can be very commanding that it makes psychological discomfort, concerting it into a tough choice for us.

When we make the decision at last, just for the different alternatives to be there, in fact, begins to torture us. In this summary, you’ll learn how and why such options lessen the joy of our choices.

Gratefully, The Paradox of Choice reveals to us the way we can follow to avert the bad effects of choice exerted by striving for any range of proper limitations. Ideas are shared about how to clarify decision making and to be happy with the options we consider.


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Chapter 1 – The number of choices people encounter daily has raised greatly in contemporary years.


Before some decades, choice in a few places of the everyday routine was, in fact, fairly restraint.

For instance, only thirty years ago, all services were controlled by monopolies, thus, consumers didn’t have to go through challenging choices regarding who was responsible for supporting their telephone or electric service. Thus, when the case became choosing pedagogy, schools regularly asked all pupils to finish a couple of years’ courses of general learning, with just seldom, yet the options of courses were limited.

However, when the community has developed, the order of choices in daily life has extremely grown. We now encounter a need for making decisions that is unique in the history of mankind.

Nowadays, for example, schools are like mental shopping centers, embracing a concept that encourages freedom of choice in the first degree. Also, Even Swarthmore College, a modest one with just 1,350 students, has around 120 various subjects to satisfy the general education requirement, from which students should register only nine. Actually, the majority of advanced colleges, students have the option to seek nearly an unspecified study area they prefer.

This s excess of choice is utilized in other places too – in utility sponsors, for instance, whose unconditional and competitive approaches in telecommunication and energy industries have brought a confusing order of options. And we’re nowadays introduced with a huge compulsory of several types of health insurance, retirement programs, and medical care.



Actually, it looks as regardless of the concept of the daily life we go back to, the number of decisions lays there for us has grown during the recent decades.

Thus, if we are opting for a utility provider or deciding on a profession route, the current community introduces to us plenty of options.


Chapter 2 – The more choices we have, the more difficult it turns to be for making the right decision.


“Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” said the existentialist philosopher Albert Camus, stating the aspect that everywhere and any minute in our lives there’s a choice to be taken.

Not just this, yet there are options all the time to our decisions. Fortunately, however, the majority of our behaviors are very spontaneous that we don’t actually notice the options. Hence, there is a small amount of psychological reality to this freedom of choice: as choices walk by, wearing underwear and cleaning our teeth don’t actually matter.

Yet nowadays, we are regularly being introduced to different alternatives that need more energy from us than at any other time.

Different alternatives in finance and healthcare, for instance, need deep study, and the majority of people just don’t think they have yet the most primitive qualities or education to make their mind, informed choices regarding these sophisticated aspects of life.

For example, not very far from this period the only health insurance you could have was Blue Cross. Yet, in this time, the option of health insurance systems and companies have turned into extremely sophisticated, and anyone who is well aware of what health insurance includes is not easy to be found.

Furthermore, encountering these needy options loads up a massive sense of obligation on a person. Certainly, recent decades have witnessed burgeoning providers for and reliance in the free market, moving the obligation of decision making away from the authorities and onto each person.



That works just fine for the smaller financial decisions in the world. Yet, when the case is to decide on the better health insurance, retirement plan, or medical care, the stakes for the person are enormous. For instance, a false choice by an old citizen can cause total financial waste, making the individual to choose between meal and medication.

This growing impact of such needy choices, where we ourselves have a complete obligation, lets it to be more difficult to decide intelligently and can turn our freedom of choice into a deadly strain. 


Chapter 3 – The more choices we have, the more possible we are to fall in blunder.


Realizing what we need in the first place suggests that we have the capacity to predict how a single option or else one will shape our thinking. Although such an idea seems easy, it’s, in fact, a very tough chore.

Also, when picking from only a collection of options, people’s decision making is liable for a mistake. It’s because of the idea that our decisions are partly controlled by our previous experiences, which are usually subjective.

The psychologist Daniel Kahneman has already demonstrated that the way we recall a previous incident relies nearly totally on how that incident affected us when it was at its most negative condition and at the time it completed.

In case, for example, you remember a journey you went on, your opinion on the journey will possibly be governed by the best/worst experience – for instance, struggling with your spouse – and how the journey completed: for instance, the last day’s climate.



Moreover, our anticipations regarding the way a decision will cause us a certain feeling are seldom true. Such a result was illustrated in research where experts told college students to opt for collections of snacks to have in the break time of their weekly seminar.

Part of the students proceeded to opt for one week every time, so they just needed to figure out what they felt like to have a snack at the time. The students decided on their preferred snack, which continued to be the same every seminar break.

Yet, the second part of students was told to choose a different snack each for three weeks, and those students chose various, incorrectly assuming that they would get bored with their preferred snack.

Therefore, this group urged to anticipate what they would feel like having different snack options for three weeks revealed shorter satisfied with their decisions.

This aim to commit mistakes can just get worse since the quantity and sophisticated manner of decisions grows. Thus, if the students in the example mentioned earlier ought to pick from hundreds, rather than dozens of snacks, they would’ve faced yet more difficult moments thinking of their desire. 

Yet, not just does confront more choices make it harder to pick right, but it also strips us of the happiness we feel with our decision in the end, as you’ll see in the coming section.


Chapter 4 – The more alternatives we get, the less happy we feel with our choices.


Suppose you’re thinking of a holiday: is it going to be a tour in northern California? Or would you instead go to a beach house on Cape Cod for a week? 

Regardless of your choice, it has to do with skipping the chances the second alternative would’ve offered.

This is referred to as opportunity cost, and it’s a basic part of decision making. For example, the opportunity cost of a holiday in Cape Cod is to be capable of going to the amazing cuisines in California.

Sadly, opportunity costs minimize our whole happiness in the decisions we make eventually.

Such information was stated by research which questioned people the extent to what they would spend for subscriptions to big journals. Few subscribers were revealed a single journal, while others found the same journal as the same as other journals. In nearly every situation, people’s answers put less assessment of the journal when they found it at the same level as the rest. 

Thus, every time we make decisions related to opportunity costs, we’ll sense less happy with our decision than we would if the options were not known to us. And the more options we have, the higher our knowledge of the opportunity costs, and the less joy we’ll get from the decision we make eventually.



Think of this research: a couple of groups faced many kinds of jams at a testing table. The first group could test just half a dozen of various jams and the second group, two dozens. The group who could test more types was too less able to finally purchase a single type of the jam than the group that was introduced to just half a dozen. 

How come?

When a chooser limits their choice to a specific jam, the several charming characteristics of the jams left out from the choice accumulate to shape the chosen jam as less excellent. Thus, the more jams, the more the opportunity costs, and the less charming the chosen jam will appear.

That reveals that expanded choice lessens both our will to decide and any happiness to be received from what we really pick. 


Chapter 5 – We get familiar with things and as an outcome, our decisions seldom take us to an expected pleasure.


When was the last moment you purchased a truly pretty item? Let’s assume it was a piece of amazing electronic equipment that you had thought it through for quite a while. In case you are the same as any human being, your happiness with that piece had faded away after some time.

Mankind, as every species, react lighter and lighter to any happening incident as the incident continues – we just get used to it.

What happens actually is called adaptation, and it’s a common aspect of human psychology.

For example, a village tenant who goes to Manhattan might be consumed by the metropolitan, but a New Yorker, who’s totally adapted to it, is happily unconcerned.

Sadly, due to this process, any activity we might live as a good one won’t keep on itself as long as we believe it will.

For instance, think of our adaptation to joy (“hedonic adaptation”). In case an incident triggers our feeling of joy by, suppose, 20 “degrees” at first sight, it may trigger it by just 15 in the second time, and by 10 in the third. Finally, the incident may not even trigger it anymore. 

In a popular example of hedonic adaptation, research targeted both obviously satisfied and unsatisfied repliers to assess their happiness. Few had been awarded $50.000 to $1 million in state lotteries in the recent year, while others had turned into half-paralyzed or quartered-paralyzed because of accidents.



Outcomes revealed that the lottery winners were not satisfied than others in general and that the accident sufferers yet doomed themselves to be satisfied (although kind of less satisfied than others in general). This showed that people adapt to also the best and worst of luck.

Thus, even if you might think that buying a new laptop would make you very happy forever, any experience you might conclude from it perhaps won’t last that long.


Chapter 6 – The consuming amount of choice adds to the outbreak of dissatisfaction in the modern community.


It looks like the US community develops more in wealth and citizens turn to have more freedom to try and perform everything they desire, they are in shorter and shorter of satisfaction. 

Think of the idea that the US GDP – a major measure of good fortune – has beyond just doubled in the recent three decades, while the US “happiness quotient” has been in continuous drop.

Actually, the number of individuals who claim themselves as “very happy” has nose-dived in the recent three decades, the tensest demonstration being the heightened currency of clinical melancholy. Admittedly, by a few statistics, melancholy was approximately ten times as possible in 2000 as it was in the last century. 

Then, what’s the reason for this broad dissatisfaction?

Easily said, we’re ruined with the choice.

When we’re introduced with apparently infinite alternatives but decisions we actually make appear not to meet our expectations, we favor to condemn ourselves – which reveals real misery.



Just like psychologist Martin Seligman has found out, failure or shortage of dominance drives to melancholy if an individual clarifies the reason for the failure as worldly (“I fail in all areas of life”) constant (“I will always be a failure”) and private (“It seems to be only me who always fails”).

This kind of extreme self-blame increases in a globe of absolute choice. It’s pretty simpler to condemn yourself for unexpected outcomes in that globe than in another where alternatives are restricted. This is due to us having the freedom to be in control of our destinies, we then wait for ourselves to be so by default. Afterwise, obviously, we got only ourselves to condemn. 

What this promotes to is that the generation of opportunities provided by the developed world, accompanied by the importance of our liberty of choice, can reveal that we condemn ourselves extremely when we don’t succeed to decide right.

And as extreme self-condemn can drive us towards melancholy, there is positive justification to think that our community’s plenty of choice is related to the developed disease of dissatisfaction.


Chapter 7 – Decisions are more demanding and less satisfying if you wish extra limits: a person who strives and takes what’s best.


Assume that you want to buy a sweater. If you aim to have the ultimate best purchase that can be had and thus feels the necessity to see the options to make sure that you’ve settled on the desired one, you might be an extra limits person.

According to a decision strategy, extra limits are a consuming mission as such desire tends to choose nothing but the best. If you’re such a person, each option has the possibility to trap you into an infinite confusion of ideas.

For instance, because there are infinite potentials out there, and nothing but the best will achieve satisfaction, extra limits people urgently take much time on item comparison, both prior and preceding they decide to buy it.

Actually, researches performed by the writer and his associates revealed that when encountering a choice, extra limits people pay great effort on attempting to picture all other potentials – also those options that are just hypothetical. For example, when faced with a choice between a warm, light cashmere sweater and a cheap one, the extra limits person will be very fast to picture checking a hypothetical cheap cashmere sweater.

Not just extra limits people consume themselves in such path, yet when they’ve eventually passed the hardship of deciding, and really make their choice, they’re more likely than others to be unhappy with it.



For such justification, extra limits people are precisely sensitive to “buyer’s remorse”. For example, extra limits person who succeeds in purchasing a pretty sweater after a hard search will, however, be bothered by the alternatives they didn’t get the chance to check. Their concept of “what might have been” consumes them, showing the product they have chosen less charming.

In a life of endless choices, it is hard and emotionally tiring to be an extra limits person, never deciding for less than the best.

Yet, as we’ll find out next, you don’t need to remain as an extra limits person. There’s an easy choice you can make and it will let you live a more peaceful life: become a satisficer. 


Chapter 8 – Decisions are less demanding and more satisfying if you are a satisficer: a person who’s capable to accept the “good enough”.


We’re all familiar with those who can pick things fast and definitely. Such people are satisficers and they’re featured by having a specific norm they commit to when deciding, rather than having “the best” as their target.

Satisficing is a reasonable decision strategy – it indicates keeping on looking until you get the prospect that fulfills your norms, and it ends at this point.

A satisficer’s life is separated into two sections: choices that fulfill their norms and choices that don’t. Thus, when making a decision, they just need to consider the choices within the first section.

For example, a satisficer searching to purchase a new sweater will choose the one she sees that matches her expectations of size, material, and cost. A satisficer doesn’t worry about how good the sweater or the price is.

Yet, other than just avoiding wasting time, what’s the benefit in satisficing?

Satisficers are more comfortable with the decisions they make, and – prominently – they’re more comfortable with life in whole, as well.

As satisficers don’t match between infinite options when deciding, they don’t face the drop in the satisfaction that happens in studying what the rest of the alternatives might have provided them.



And because they don’t seek perfection when making choices, they won’t waste time considering the hypothetical perfect life in which alternatives are there that grant total satisfaction.

Such a concept makes it too simpler for them to be happy with their decisions, and with life as a whole. Actually, in surveys investigating satisfaction and optimism, satisficers are comprehensive high-scorers. 

Confronted, as our community is, with infinite options, you’d be lucky to be a satisficer, as the number of possible alternatives won’t have a huge influence on your decision making. The positive thing is that the majority of us have the ability to be satisficers, also those who comprehensively sense consumed by choice. All that’s needed is to drop off any standards that “the best” is achievable.


Chapter 9 – Our social connections and psychological health advance if we accept specific voluntary restrictions on our liberty.


The absolute liberty of decision in ever many approaches to life might drive us to loneliness and bring us more depression than we imagine.

As a community, we might gain and waste more fortune than before, yet, we waste less time with the individuals close to us as well. Certainly, the political scientist and writer Rober Lane illustrate that our grown wealth and liberty is taking from us a large drop in the quality and quantity of social connections, which brings a huge drop in our health.

These connections are basic to our psychological well-being, also if they join and restrain us to a degree. Actually, commitment and belonging to social communities and organizations is nearly a cure for dissatisfaction.

Think of the narrow connected conservative society of the Amish people. The event of melancholy between their individuals is below 20 percent of the national rate – an outcome of their solid society membership. 



Yet, building and sustaining significant social connections need dropping off our realized liberty of decision and a readiness to be moderately joint or restrained by those connections. For example, meaningful social participation in families, close friendships, civil communities, and similars, suggests submitting the self in order to maintain the strength of relations.

Yet, in what way can we accomplish such a thing? By utilizing regulations to restrain ourselves and determine the decisions we confronted with, we can have a world that is more flexible and lessen the possibility of psychological depression.

For example, in case you embrace the regulation that you will never deceive your spouse, you can rub off the suffering and intriguing choices that might pop up in the future. However, you have to get the discipline to stick by those regulations.

As absolute liberty can prevent the person’s social connections and chase what that person desires the most, it sounds like some extent of restraint would bring everybody for good. By putting effort into limiting our choices, we would be capable to decide less and feel well.


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


Routinely choices have massively turned into sophistication because of the consuming varieties of options that the developed community offers to us. As the amount of choices raises, so do bad impacts that choice can bring along with on our mental health. Like many choices, we get, as much hard it turns to be to make the right decision and less happiness we will earn from what we really decide on. Hence, it looks like a certain extent of voluntary restraint would get everybody a better condition. By easily choosing less, opportunities are that we would be more satisfied.


Check your decision making!

An easy practice can assist you to limit your choices in order to enable you to choose less and improve your feeling: step one, check a few latest decisions you’ve made, both grant and simple. After that, list the stages, time, study, and worry that paid in making those decisions. Such steps will provide you with a summary of the prices related to the various types of decisions you make and aid you to build later regulations that control the way many choices you have to think of, or the amount of time and effort to spend in deciding process.



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