Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The paradox of having too many choices

Do we have too many choices? If we had fewer options to choose from, would we be happier? When there are lots of alternatives, we are nagged by the thought that we are missing out! Adding options increase expectations. "Everything was better when everything was worse!" The secret to happiness is low expectations! Depression and suicide are on the increase. This is a problem here in modern, western affluent society. Psychologist Barry Schwartz actually makes the case for income redistribution!


swiftone said...

Where to start on such a talk? First of all, we have 250 choices of salad dressing because the market supports that many varieties. I prefer a couple of those flavors, and don't branch out much. There are some perfectly awful zero calorie choices. Now, having said that, car choices... ugh. I need a vehicle. But the price point will likely make my decision. I'm not going to obsess about it because I'm buying transportation, not status, not sizzle nor even scorch. If I felt I could afford some scorch, I might invest, but I honestly just need to have a reliable way to get from here to there. Etc. The fact that people have problems making decisions in the face of so many choices, and it makes them unhappy, just might reflect on their values and expectations of themselves. I've not quite said what I need to get to the nub of this. Using an affluent society as an excuse to be unhappy is weakness and pathetic.

If you have time to read a long essay, Isaiah's Job is a great essay on the historical ability of "mass man" to over emphasize the value of the material world, and refuse to take the effort to find or ascribe some meaning in their little lives. That is the source of much unhappiness. I don't need some Psychologist telling me that I need my choices restricted so I can not be swamped by my inability to make a decision. He really got me irritated! Must have been too close to home. I totally understand the Depression mentality of "we were poor, but we didn't realize it. We were better off than most of our neighbors and never went to bed hungry." No excuse in that to start making people happier because they are peasants. What a pinheaded elitist.

Terri said...

This guy is nuts. I want as many choices as I can get. Why should we not have as many choices as we want. This is crazy.