Monday, August 13, 2007

The Paradox of Choice

As information professionals, we face a plethora of choice each and everyday of our working lives, from what brand of coffee to buy in the morning to the database we want to conduct for a search. So many choices, so little time to choose. Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action, reveals in The Paradox of Choice strategies that can refine our decision-making processes to more effective results. His book is worth a read. Here are some major points:

(1) Choose When to Choose -
If choice makes you feel worse about what you've chosen, you really haven't gained anything from the opportunity to choose. By restricting our options, we will be able to choose less and feel better.

(2) Be a Chooser, Not a Picker - Choosers make the time to modify their goals; pickers do not. Good decisions take time and attention, and the only way we can find the needed time and attention is by choosing our spots.

(3) Satisfice More and Maximize Less - Maximizers suffer most in a culture that provides too many choices. Learn to accept "good enough" since it will simplify decision making and increase satisfaction. Results are subjective sometimes; yet, satisficers will almost always feel better about their decisions.

(4) Think About the Opportunity of Opportunity Costs - The more we think about opportunity costs, the less satisfaction we'll derive from whatever we choose.

(5) Make Your Decisions Nonreversible - The very option of being allowed to change our minds seems to increase the chances that we will change our minds. When we can change our minds about decisions, we are less satisfied with them.

(6) Practice and "Attitude of Gratitude" - Our evaluation of our choices is profoundly affected by what we compare them with, including comparisons with alternatives that exist only in our imaginations. The experience can be either disappointing or delightful. We can improve our subjective experience by consciously striving to be grateful more often for what is good about a choice and to be disappointed less by what is bad about it.

(7) Regret Less - The sting of regret (actual or potential) colours many decisions, and influences us to avoid making decision at all sometimes. Although it is often appropriate and instructive, when it becomes so pronounced that it poisons or even prevents decisions, we should make an effort to minimize it.

(8) Anticipate Adaptation - Learning to be satisfied as pleasures turn into mere comforts will reduce disappointment with adaption when it occurs.

(9) Control Expectations - The easiest route to increasing satisfaction with the results of decisions it to remove excessively high expectations about them.

(10) Curtail Social Comparison - We evaluate the quality of our experiences by comparing ourselves to others, so by comparing ourselves to others less, we will be satisfied more.

(11) Learn to Love Constraints - As the number of choices we face increases, freedom of choice eventually becomes a tyranny of choice. Choice within constraints, freedom within limits, is what enables us marvelous possibilities.

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