The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

3.8 38
by Barry Schwartz

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In the spirit of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, a social critique of our obsession with choice, and how it contributes to anxiety, dissatisfaction and regret. This paperback includes a new P.S. section with author interviews, insights, features, suggested readings, and more.

Whether we’re buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee,

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In the spirit of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, a social critique of our obsession with choice, and how it contributes to anxiety, dissatisfaction and regret. This paperback includes a new P.S. section with author interviews, insights, features, suggested readings, and more.

Whether we’re buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions--both big and small--have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.

We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice--the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish--becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice--from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs--has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse.

By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counterintuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on the important ones and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.

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Editorial Reviews

Christian Science Monitor
“Brilliant.... The case Schwartz makes... is compelling, the implications disturbing.... An insightful book.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“An insightful study that winningly argues its subtitle.”
Austin American-Statesman
“Schwartz lays out a convincing argument.... [He] is a crisp, engaging writer with an excellent sense of pace.”
St. Petersburg Times
“Schwartz offers helpful suggestions of how we can manage our world of overwhelming choices.”
Washington Post
“Wonderfully readable.”
“Schwartz has plenty of insightful things to say about the perils of everyday life.”
“With its clever analysis, buttressed by sage New Yorker cartoons, The Paradox of Choice is persuasive.”
USA Today
Schwartz, a Swarthmore College professor of social theory, makes a lively, non-academic and convincing argument that although there is a necessary standard of living for people to be happy, Americans in the 21st century have fallen into a morass of lingering discontent, gnawing anxiety and an obsession with status. And the relentless barrage of clever ads only foments our sense that there's always something better out there. —Deirdre Donahue
Alex Bozikovic
...he presents an impressive array of psychological evidence about how more looking actually makes us less happy with our choices....The Paradox Of Choice makes a strong scientific case for balance, for an "attitude of gratitude," for leaving our losses behind and focusing on the future.
The Toronto Star
Publishers Weekly
Like Thoreau and the band Devo, psychology professor Schwartz provides ample evidence that we are faced with far too many choices on a daily basis, providing an illusion of a multitude of options when few honestly different ones actually exist. The conclusions Schwartz draws will be familiar to anyone who has flipped through 900 eerily similar channels of cable television only to find that nothing good is on. Whether choosing a health-care plan, choosing a college class or even buying a pair of jeans, Schwartz, drawing extensively on his own work in the social sciences, shows that a bewildering array of choices floods our exhausted brains, ultimately restricting instead of freeing us. We normally assume in America that more options (easy fit or relaxed fit?) will make us happier, but Schwartz shows the opposite is true, arguing that having all these choices actually goes so far as to erode our psychological well-being. Part research summary, part introductory social sciences tutorial, part self-help guide, this book offers concrete steps on how to reduce stress in decision making. Some will find Schwartz's conclusions too obvious, and others may disagree with his points or find them too repetitive, but to the average lay reader, Schwartz's accessible style and helpful tone is likely to aid the quietly desperate. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The freedom to make choices is perhaps the fundamental right of free persons. The entire social system of the United States and much of the Western world hinges on one's ability to choose for oneself. However, in this fascinating book, Schwartz (psychology, Swarthmore Coll.; The Costs of Living) looks at the downside of all these choices. "The fact that some choice is good doesn't necessarily mean more choice is better. . . . Clinging tenaciously to all the choices available to us contributes to bad decisions, to anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction-and even clinical depression." With the thousands of little choices we make every day (a number that has increased exponentially over the past few decades-see, for example, the grocery store's cereal aisle), Americans are being overloaded and worn down as they search for the best option rather than options that are good enough and satisfy our needs. Schwartz takes readers through relevant research to explain why too many choices can be negative, and in the final chapter he explains how to deal with the problems of too much choice. The book is well researched and authoritative yet written in a style that makes it accessible to college and higher-level public library patrons. Recommended.-Mark Bay, Cumberland Coll. Lib., Williamsburg, KY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
7.94(w) x 7.92(h) x 0.75(d)

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