Friday, August 31, 2007

Barry Schwartz - “The paradox of choice: Why more is less”

It seems somewhat logical to assume that the more choices we have in a life be it foodstuffs, work, medicine, basically anything, that this variety translates to a more advantageous situation for us.

I recently watched an eye opening lecture based on the book entitled “The paradox of choice: Why more is less” on Google video by professor of Social Theory Barry Schwartz who proposes that quite the opposite is true and that in fact we have so many choices available to us now in day to day life that it can lead to a situation where we are put in a much worse situation because of it. Of course Mr Schwartz does not say that choice is an entirely bad thing, he aggress that indeed some choice is better than no choice, but in many cases the sheer number of alternatives can create a sense of paralysis and given too many choices the chances are the individual will choose nothing.

One of the first presumptions we make is that the more choices we have available to us the better wellbeing we will have, because ultimately we can decide how we want to take care of ourselves.
It used to be that when you went to a doctor he would tell you what to do, and you would go get it done, the choice was simple, what ever the doctor said to you, you did.
Now the medical system in the United States has changed to one of “patient Autonomy” where although the Doctor proposes it is ultimately the patient who discloses, therefore the choice and the risk following is put in the hand of someone who does not know a great deal about medicine or the ramifications of these choices.

Another part of life where an increased level of choices has led to a drop in levels of wellbeing is that of our working lives. With the leaps and bounds technology has made in the last decade it is now possible with the wide array of mobile technology available to us to work every minute of every day and in virtually any place in the world. So now when we are at home, on holiday on the train, we have to make the choice not to work, and for many in a job where they feel like they need to compete or stay one step ahead of the competition this can lead people to a situation where they work to excessive levels and cause themselves and their family great deals of stress.

Over my next few posts I will highlight some of his great findings and ideas on the subject of why you can definitely have too much choice.
Also if you have some free time on your hands I suggest you watch it here at Google video

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