The paradox of choice | Barry Schwartz - Deepstash
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The official dogma of all Western Industrial Societies

The official dogma of all Western Industrial Societies

The dogma is this: If we are interested in maximising the welfare of our citizens, we have to maximise individual freedom.  The reason is that freedom is good, valuable, worthwhile, and essential to being human.

The way to maximise freedom is to maximise choice: The more choice people have, the more freedom they have. The more freedom they have, the more welfare they have.


380 reads

Too many choices

Too many choices

We have an almost unlimited variety of choices, for example, hundreds of salad dressings, an unlimited variety of phones, choices in health care, prescription drugs and more.

Even something like our identity can become a matter of choice. We get to invent and reinvent ourselves as often as we please. 

This huge freedom of choice means we have to make a decision, again and again and again. Should I answer this call? Should I respond to this email? Should I draft this letter? 


337 reads

Not everything should be a matter of choice

Too much choice has two negative effects on people:

  1. Paradoxically, it produces paralysis rather than liberation. Too many options, and people find it very difficult to choose at all.
  2. Even if we overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of our selection than if we had fewer options. It's easy to imagine that a different choice would've been better.


344 reads

Expecting perfection and feeling worse

Too many options lead us to expect perfection - you may never be pleasantly surprised by quality because your expectations have gone through the roof. 

When you choose from thousands of options, you may always feel disappointed. You may think you're at fault because you could've chosen something better. As a result, you have higher expectations and do better in general, but you still feel worse.


327 reads

Less choice as a policy matter

The problem that lies in the modern, affluent, Western societies is that expensive, complicated choices don't help. They make us worse off. 

Therefore, income redistribution can make everyone better off, because of how excess choice plagues us. Too many choices don't give freedom. It paralysis us, and decrease satisfaction.


326 reads



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