The Downside of Too Much Choice


BaalChatzaf

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Please have a look at this TED video clip. It has a very interesting view of choice:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/barry_s..._of_choice.html

I just love it when very smart people and I come to similar conclusions. I have had the view (for a long time now) that pessimists are better off. They cannot suffer disappointment. Barry Schwartz expands on this notion.

PS. These TED clips are great and they are free. Hudathunkit?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Please have a look at this TED video clip. It has a very interesting view of choice:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/barry_s..._of_choice.html

I just love it when very smart people and I come to similar conclusions. I have had the view (for a long time now) that pessimists are better off. They cannot suffer disappointment. Barry Schwartz expands on this notion.

PS. These TED clips are great and they are free. Hudathunkit?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Had a listen.

Can't say I'm surprised that to me, I thought his take on things was exactly the opposite - alien and nonsensical. Ramblings of a neurotic, but intelligent wierdo projecting his own take on the world in a rational but intensely personal way, blind to the fact that most people see the world ver very differently.

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No need to yell.

Quid? No caps, bubbah. TED is a proper name.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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No, Ted is a nickname, Theodore is a given name and an apellation like Ted Keer or Ted Bundy or Ted Baxter is a proper noun. And while Ba'al means "lord" and Ba'al Moloch eats babies, BOB is "a manufacturer of innovative, high-quality strollers and bicycle trailers for todays active lifestyles." But TED is apparently an acronym like Rashi or Rambam, not to be confused with

bambam-3.gif.

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  • 6 months later...

Ba'al,

I found this video very interesting. I think Schwartz has relevant findings, but comes to the wrong conclusions about how to "fix the problem." He doesn't mention that it is possible to easily contend with a vast amount of options--which would take a method of organization to sort out the viable from the non-viable options. To go with that, you would also need a healthy dose of self-esteem to be able to cope with making mistakes, and opting to learn from them rather than despair.

So, if you pick salad dressing that sucks, you don't beat yourself up for being a lousy decision-maker; you don't buy that same salad dressing again. It's a mental thing. It seems that Schwartz takes that unhappiness as an unchangeable factor in his "paradox of choice."

While it is true that a lot of choices can make it harder to choose, there are ways to make choosing easier. If someone goes to the doctor and receives two options of care, he or she has the option of how to spend his or her money on health. For someone who values money over their health, or deems the sickness of little significance, they may choose an "option A." For someone who values health over money, or deems the sickness of great significance, they may choose an "option B."

When you have a method attached to a value, choice becomes much easier. If you know you hate creamy dressing, try the Italian. But if you want to expand your tastes, try a basalmic that you've never tried before. Then--is price an issue? If it is, you buy the least expensive. If it is not, you buy the best that money can provide. Are calories an issue? If yes, then tie this information in with the price and type of dressing. If no, then less qualities have to be fulfilled.

Of course, the situation can becomes a mess if you don't know what your values rank as, or if you have little self-esteem.

But I'd rather have bad dressing in America than good dressing in Somolia.

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If you have too much choice you have enough money and less time than you think.

--Brant

PS: after listening to Barry for 30 seconds it's obvious he has enough money and less time than he thinks. So do members of his audience. I killed the video. My Mother is dying in slow motion. She may die tonight or a month from now or even make it to 95, I don't know. I do know crap and this is crap. Go to Africa and lecture about this. China or Vietnam. It takes academics or their ilk not to know what's important.

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This is a good time to bring up two popular views in psychology about happiness. These two views are: Life Satisfaction and Emotional Well-Being.

Life Satisfaction is basically a cognitive measure of how good an individual believes his/her life is. It is cognitive because it is a cognitive assessment about one's life, about how successful one is in meeting one's goals, etc. The assessment can lead to differing effects such as greater energy or depression, but it's basically founded on the philosophy - if you think you're happy, you're happy.

The flip side is emotional well-being. Emotional well-being is measured by an increase in positive emotions and a decrease in negative emotions. As you can see, happiness here is based not on what you think but on what you feel. Although this seems like the obvious logical experience of happiness, that would be fooling oneself to believe. We are cognitive, and so our assessments of happiness are a combination of emotional experience and cognitive assessment.

The two are significantly interrelated, but at least in the case of life satisfaction, we have some direct control. Thinking and reassessment can change life satisfaction (one's outlook), whereas action is the main method of changing emotional experience. When we discuss cognitive choices and cognitive appraisals (could I have chosen a better salad dressing?), we are talking about life satisfaction. Regardless of the emotions that we feel when eating the salad dressing, our mind says whatever it says. But!... we can influence what our mind says, and perhaps that is one trick to high self-esteem. We do have to accept our feelings, we don't have to accept our mind suggesting that perhaps we didn't choose the best salad dressing... we can change the latter.

So, the TED speech was interesting in my opinion, but certainly not something worthy of external actions... rather, it is a signal that certain circumstances require us to pay more attention to our own thoughts in order to remain happy

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What I find hard to believe is that with all the choices available to him, Barry Schwartz chose to dress as he appears in this video.

It's a remarkable video. Schwartz clearly sees himself, despite his protestations to the contrary, as being entirely without choices: that is, as being wholly the creature of his environment. If 175 salad dressings are put before him, he is helpless; he can't merely see one he likes and take it, he must examine all 175 before making a decision. Why? I find it difficult to credit that a grown man is so flummoxed by the spectacle of some bottles of salad dressing!

When Ayn Rand's sister Nora came from Soviet Russia to visit her in New York, she almost immediately disliked New York and America. "There are too many choices," she said . One day she went to a supermarket to buy toothpaste, but returned without it. "There were shelves of different tubes of toothpaste," she complained, "and no one would tell me which one to buy!" Nora's fear in the face of the need to choose is somewhat understandable. She had spent her life in a dictatorship, where the responsibility for her choices and her life, the responsibility for choosing values and acting to achieve them, had been taken from her.

Barry Schwartz has not spent his life in a dictatorship. His fear and dread of responsibility is not understandable. To live in a free society and yet to long for the forced infantilism of compulsion, to need some authority figure to tell him what salad dressing to buy and, presumably, what house to live in, what career to follow, what woman to marry, what ideas to accept, what candidate to vote for, is an astonishingly craven state for a grown man. It is children who need someone to hold their hand and tell them what to do; we normally assume that adults welcome the need to run their own lives.

Schwartz is speaking for himself. He is certainly not speaking for me. I'm about to buy a new car. The possibilities are numerous and varied, But I know that I want good gas mileage, I know generally the kind of places I'm likely to drive to, I know the style of car I like, I know what i can afford to spend, etc. l have no intention of going to a hundred dealerships in order to examine a thousand different cars. I'll go to the dealer who sells the car I want. I shudder to think what Barry Schwartz would do.

What is most appalling about his "dilemma" is that he would rather a doctor made life and death decisions for him - even made the wrong decision-- rather than take upon himself and his own intelligence the responsibility for his life. "Don't give me so many choices" means "Don't make me think -- it's you who must decide if I'm to live or die."

And, of course, at the end of his talk, he makes clear what it all has been about. All the verbiage has had a single purpose: to lead him to the point where he can say: "What enables all this choice is material affliuence. Income re-distribution would make everyone better off." It would have been an act of kindness had he said that in the beginning, and thereby saved us all from wasting our time.

Barbara

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When Ayn Rand's sister Nora came from Soviet Russia to visit her in New York, she almost immediately disliked New York and America. "There are too many choices," she said . One day she went to a supermarket to buy toothpaste, but returned without it. "There were shelves of different tubes of toothpaste," she complained, "and no one would tell me which one to buy!" Nora's fear in the face of the need to choose is somewhat understandable. She had spent her life in a dictatorship, where the responsibility for her choices and her life, the responsibility for choosing values and acting to achieve them, had been taken from her.

It was not only living in a dictatorship that can be overwhelming. Anyone who lives in a community where consumer choices are limited seems to be overwhelmed by what is on offer in American stores. I've seen Latin American visitors come into my place of work (a major department store) and take pictures of, for instance, the boy's department, simply because they are amazed at the variety on offer. And these are people from, say Montevideo or Caracas (at least, Caracas in the preChavez era): places that are consumer oriented and more or less politically free. Some people revel in the possibilities of choice; some people are frightened by it.

And there are the people who get flummoxed when they notice that the most important difference among all those toothpastes is often only the packaging and nothing in the toothpaste itself. Consider how you would feel if you were fresh off the boat, no friendly mentor at hand to help, and only the information on all those boxes (assuming you are literate in English), and the price labels, to guide you in figuring out which one you should buy.

(I long ago adopted my mother's philosophy. "Is Colgate on sale this week?")

(As for sartorial choices--obviously his environment made him do it.)

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Schwartz is speaking for himself. He is certainly not speaking for me. I'm about to buy a new car. The possibilities are numerous and varied, But I know that I want good gas mileage, I know generally the kind of places I'm likely to drive to, I know the style of car I like, I know what i can afford to spend, etc. l have no intention of going to a hundred dealerships in order to examine a thousand different cars. I'll go to the dealer who sells the car I want. I shudder to think what Barry Schwartz would do.

Let me make your choice for you Barbara: a Wombat 12. The gas mileage is horrible, but it doesn't go anywhere.

--Brant

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Barry Schwartz has not spent his life in a dictatorship. His fear and dread of responsibility is not understandable. To live in a free society and yet to long for the forced infantilism of compulsion, to need some authority figure to tell him what salad dressing to buy and, presumably, what house to live in, what career to follow, what woman to marry, what ideas to accept, what candidate to vote for, is an astonishingly craven state for a grown man. It is children who need someone to hold their hand and tell them what to do; we normally assume that adults welcome the need to run their own lives.

Barbara

Barbara:

Nah...all it takes is a Jewish mother!

Adam

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This paradox of choice non-sense is rooted in the same basic philosophical corruption - a worship of platonic idealism and holding human errors of judgement up against some impossible standard of omniscience. Instead achieving happiness in the face of a vast array of choices rationally by suggesting people merely adopt a 'good enough' attitude, and pick a 'go-no go' time for decision making, these idiots feel it necessary to force everyone to make the same choices by severely limiting the number of choices. But if this were truly such a psychologically crippling phenomena, how would any human ever find a decent mate in the sea of millions of possible mates? this is just another leverage point for socialist tyranny to try to take root.

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Ba'al: "I have had the view (for a long time now) that pessimists are better off. They cannot suffer disappointment."

I'm reading a fascinating book by Martin Seligman, entitled Learned Optimism. The author convincingly makes the case that people who tend to be optimistic rather than pessimistic have happier lives, are more free of illness, are more successful in their professional and private lives, are more likely to recover relatively quickly from losses and disappointments, and even tend to live longer.

The pessimist may never suffer from the occasional disappointments that accompany a life of striving and aspirations, perhaps because, expecting nothing, daring nothing, he has settled for a life that is one long , joyless disappointment.

Barbara

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Not only can optimism be learned, but when I tell myself something like, "I'm feeling terrific," I can actually feel the difference in my body. Also, if I realize I'm down, I force myself to start laughing. My body immediately relaxes. It seems the body can be easily fooled by the mind. I'm actually very careful about how I think. It just plain feels better to be happy.

Ginny

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Not only can optimism be learned, but when I tell myself something like, "I'm feeling terrific," I can actually feel the difference in my body. Also, if I realize I'm down, I force myself to start laughing. My body immediately relaxes. It seems the body can be easily fooled by the mind. I'm actually very careful about how I think. It just plain feels better to be happy.

Ginny

Ginny:

I have always been amused by the cliche "mind over matter" as if it were a competition rather than a unified whole. The power of positive thinking works. One aspect that was a moment of clarity for me as I read Atlas the first time, was how Rand debunked the mind body dichotomy.

Makes for wonderful days and nights. Thankfully I read the book real early in life.

Adam

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  • 2 weeks later...

I enjoyed the video

Not only can optimism be learned, but when I tell myself something like, "I'm feeling terrific," I can actually feel the difference in my body. Also, if I realize I'm down, I force myself to start laughing. My body immediately relaxes. It seems the body can be easily fooled by the mind. I'm actually very careful about how I think. It just plain feels better to be happy.

Ginny

Ginny:

I have always been amused by the cliche "mind over matter" as if it were a competition rather than a unified whole. The power of positive thinking works. One aspect that was a moment of clarity for me as I read Atlas the first time, was how Rand debunked the mind body dichotomy.

Makes for wonderful days and nights. Thankfully I read the book real early in life.

Adam

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The pessimist may never suffer from the occasional disappointments that accompany a life of striving and aspirations, perhaps because, expecting nothing, daring nothing, he has settled for a life that is one long , joyless disappointment.

Barbara

I disagree. Since I have low expectations (of others) whenever they come through my delight is multiplied and increased. I have no downside, or hardly any downside. Since I expect little or nothing everything I get is a gift. For me disappointment is rare (since I do not expect much) and I do not live with the resentment that disappointment produces.

I like to base my expectations on physical realities. Given the second law of thermodynamics and the -fact- that the universe is running down, what basis is there for optimism? I take what is to be had as it can be gotten and expect rather little (except from myself).

Ba'al Chatzaf

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The pessimist may never suffer from the occasional disappointments that accompany a life of striving and aspirations, perhaps because, expecting nothing, daring nothing, he has settled for a life that is one long , joyless disappointment.

Barbara

I disagree. Since I have low expectations (of others) whenever they come through my delight is multiplied and increased. I have no downside, or hardly any downside. Since I expect little or nothing everything I get is a gift. For me disappointment is rare (since I do not expect much) and I do not live with the resentment that disappointment produces.

I like to base my expectations on physical realities. Given the second law of thermodynamics and the -fact- that the universe is running down, what basis is there for optimism? I take what is to be had as it can be gotten and expect rather little (except from myself).

Ba'al Chatzaf

An advantage of optimism is the way that it sets your mind to see the best in people and to latch onto information that may be valuable. It may lead to great benefit and certainly the possibility of disappointment, but it is best not to let disappointment lead to resentment.

I am optimistic that sometime in the future someone will find a way to violate the second law of thermodynamics. That optimism sets my mind to become alert whenever new information might bear on that possibility.

In a similar way I am optimistic that Objectivism can be validated with greater logical power than found in Ayn Rand's writing. That optimism and alertness has led me to publish in "The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies," and present at "Free Minds '09," analysis that may contribute to placing "the choice to live" and "the right to life" on a firmer logical foundation. I optimistically look forward to others doing even better.

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  • 6 months later...

To all of you:

Can't you see there can be no such thing as "too much choice" the choices one sees is only relative to one's mental capacity and if a person somehow finds himself in the midst of this "too much" and is confounded, he should look back and see who introduced him to irrelevant notions. In most cases, he took advice from other people without processing the validity or relevance of their statements first. Without reasoning and discrimination as to his needs and goals.

One man's values cannot be shared with another, only that they could be similar.

That is most of it, he took advice unwittingly.

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  • 2 months later...

For three of the last four years I was a car salesman. I sold at a dealership that carried six brands of vehicles and held a used car lot. I learned early that prospective customers whom didn't know or vaguely knew what they were shopping for and whom I failed to qualify - who I let browse indiscriminately - not only were unable to decide what to buy, but felt a need to continue their browsing elsewhere. A customer like this will look forlornly until a vehicle finally "jumps out", as one customer put it, at him to buy. So, my initial reaction to this speaker was that he needs a salesman. I understand that some of you won't understand the concept, but he proved so in his points about the doctor-patient interaction and jean shopping. Nearly all of my prospects who bought, after experiencing a handful of vehicles that I selected for them, were properly questioned about their wants and needs by me.

The inverse are prospects who have established their wants and needs prior to shopping and are convinced that viewing all possible options before buying is not only necessary, but is educated (and in that order). They might say that they're looking for the best product for their needs but subconsciously they're looking for what might be described as a perfect product. What they eventually buy certainly isn't perfect, it may not even be the best, but it's either what feels right or at least doesn't feel so bad to buy. That's why buyers who shop several dealerships in a day, with rare exception, don't buy from the best of the four but buy at the last. And the order doesn't matter: Whoever is last gets the business, regardless of if it's four brands being shopped at four dealerships or one brand being shopped at four dealerships.

So the speaker is superficially right, that consumers are unable to buy when presented with more options than less. If that were untrue, I would be out of a job. His conclusions and some of his assertions, though, are idiotic. In order for him to form his opinion he's got to believe that this mixed-economy is capitalism and that capitalism has failed. Only in a reality in which capitalism could exist would men make their own decisions.

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