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89 of 91 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great book that will fall on deaf ears
this is a fantastic book that manages to articulate a set of ideas and experiences that I have had for a long time. namely that whilst choice has been fetishised in western societies, and become an unquestionable good, in fact a lot of the time choice a) it makes us uncomfortable (and unable to choose!) and b) doesn't deliver what we expect. this book predominantly deals...
Published on 11 July 2004 by tomsk77

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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a useful book, in spite of its flaws
I like an author who can keep a good, coherent argument going through an entire book, and to give Barry Schwartz credit I certainly think he does that here. It didn't hurt that I was ready to agree with him before I even started reading -- my own dislike of consumerism disposed me favourably towards his pro-simplicity argument straight away -- but, anyhow, I think it's...
Published on 11 Mar 2007 by Nelkin


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89 of 91 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great book that will fall on deaf ears, 11 July 2004
this is a fantastic book that manages to articulate a set of ideas and experiences that I have had for a long time. namely that whilst choice has been fetishised in western societies, and become an unquestionable good, in fact a lot of the time choice a) it makes us uncomfortable (and unable to choose!) and b) doesn't deliver what we expect. this book predominantly deals with a).
one of the main points in the book is that different types of people deal with choice differently. satisficers will choose something that meets their needs, whilst maximizers will try and find the "best" option from all the choices available (it's not a simple split, some people approach different choices in different ways but anyway....). I definitely fit into the latter category. however what this book explains is that as a result maximizers will often be unhappy. this is so on the money. the amount of time I spend agonizing over some choices, and then questioning them afterwards to ensure that I didn't miss something.
there are some really interesting examples in here that I've been boring people to death with. for example the one about people buying jam. they are far more likely to buy one jam when there is only a choice of half a dozen than when there is a choice of twenty or more. it seems we get paralysed by too much choice. similraly there is a great story about people's responses to a hypothetical choice between using different vaccines - one guaranteed to cure one third (but only one third) of those it's used on, and an experimental one that will cure everyone if it works but there's only a one in three chance it will work. how you phrase the proposition has a big impact on how people respond. finally there is genuinely surprising (to me anyway) evidence that people in more restrictive communities are happier.
that said I have found quite a few people hostile to the idea that choice can be a bad thing when I've discussed this book with them. it's currently politically correct to advocate freedom of choice and want to expand it. as such I find that some politico types (more commonly but not always right-wing) are extremely threatened by any criticism of choice.
but to me that demonstrates why this is such a useful book.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a useful book, in spite of its flaws, 11 Mar 2007
By 
Nelkin (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.) (Paperback)
I like an author who can keep a good, coherent argument going through an entire book, and to give Barry Schwartz credit I certainly think he does that here. It didn't hurt that I was ready to agree with him before I even started reading -- my own dislike of consumerism disposed me favourably towards his pro-simplicity argument straight away -- but, anyhow, I think it's fair to say that he makes his case thoroughly and backs it up with wide-ranging and relevant evidence.

I have a couple of caveats, some quite important. First, when I say the argument is made thoroughly, that doesn't mean that I think the book necessarily needs to be over 200 pages long. In fact, it really does begin to drag after about halfway through. The examples become overwhelmingly repetitive -- more and more of the same -- and the prose becomes laboured, as though the author knows in his heart he has said all he needs to say. His recommendations at the end of the book, for coping with excessive choice, have a desultory air about them, and I don't think Schwartz really has any suggestions that haven't been made more clearly and insightfully by others.

I can't help feeling that he could have made his points in about half the number of pages, maybe less. That would have been a good example to set, for someone so keen to extol the virtues of economy and simplification. But I guess that would have made his publisher's job of shifting the book somewhat less simple -- less than two hundred pages and people feel they're not getting their money's worth, right?

In spite of all that I nearly gave this book four stars, but I've knocked off another point for Schwartz's spectacularly ignorant dismissal of Voluntary Simplicity at the end of his introduction. Bizarrely, he uses an American magazine called 'Real Simple' as an example to try to show the limitations of this growing movement. He says that all the magazine does is encourage people to think more about how to achieve their 'wants', rather than trying to think about how to reduce these wants and live more economically. Schwartz is quite right -- that is precisely what that particular magazine exists to do (look at their website and you will see). But he has the wrong end of the stick entirely, because 'Real Simple' has absolutely nothing to do with the Voluntary Simplicity movement. It is a 'home and garden' type magazine that offers time-saving -- and rather expensive -- solutions for busy -- and rather wealthy -- middle-class American housewives. It's like a higher-class version of 'Family Circle'. I can't believe that Schwartz could have been so foolish as to mistake it for a magazine advocating alternative lifestyles. It's about as close to consumerist middle America as you could possibly get.

He then wonders aloud whether people could be attracted to a magazine that tried to focus instead on simplifying by reducing such 'wants'. ("Who would buy such a magazine?" is his curt dismissal.) Well, I don't know if there is a magazine like that but I do know there are hundreds of thousands of people in the US, Britain, and other Western countries, who are actively choosing to simplify their lives by reducing consumption, working less, and focussing more on quality of life than money. Call it 'simple living', call it 'downshifting' -- call it what you will, there is a large, well-established and intellectually respectable (read Duane Elgin's book 'Voluntary Simplicity') social movement out there trying to engage with precisely the same problems that Schwartz outlines in this book, and he appears blissfully ignorant of it.

I feel a little bit guilty because I've said mostly critical things in this review. Hopefully you'll notice that I've still given it three stars -- I do think quite well of this book, and I'm glad I read it. If nothing else, in spite of its flaws, the book got me thinking a little. And I'm always grateful for that.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Many Choices, 10 Mar 2004
By 
takingadayoff "takingadayoff" (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I remember reading about ten or twelve years ago of Russian immigrants to the West who were overwhelmed by the choices in the average supermarket. Accustomed to a choice of cereal or no cereal, they became paralyzed when confronted with flakes, puffs, pops, sugared or not, oat, wheat, corn, rice, hot or cold, and on and on. Now, according to Barry Schwartz, we are all overwhelmed by too many choices.
No one is immune, he says. Even if someone doesn't care about clothes or restaurants, he might care very much about TV channels or books. And these are just the relatively unimportant kinds of choices. Which cookie or pair of jeans we choose doesn't really matter very much. Which health care plan or which university we choose matters quite a lot. How do different people deal with making decisions?
Schwartz analyzes from every angle how people make choices. He divides people into two groups, Maximizers and Satisficers, to describe how some people try to make the best possible choice out of an increasing number of options, and others just settle for the first choice that meets their standards. (I think he should have held out for a better choice of word than "satisficer.")
I was a bit disappointed that Schwartz dismissed the voluntary simplicity movement so quickly. They have covered this ground and found practical ways of dealing with an overabundance of choice. Instead of exploring their findings, Schwartz picked up a copy of Real Simple magazine, and found it was all about advertising. If he had picked up a copy of The Overspent American by Juliet Schor or Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin instead, he might have found some genuine discussion of simple living rather than Madison Avenue's exploitation of it.
I enjoyed the first part of The Paradox of Choice, about how we choose, but the second half, about regret and depression, seemed to drag. Fortunately, I was able to choose to skim the slow bits and move right to the more interesting conclusion, about how to become more satisfied (or "satisficed") through better decision-making.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars With so much why is our society so unhappy?, 6 May 2004
By 
Budd Margolis "TV Shopping & eComm Expert" (London, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Barry Schwartz answers the question with analytical clarity and with supported research and makes a logical and compelling case concerning the unhappiness associated with to much choice.
We are being bred by the world of marketing through the power of persuasive and pervasive media. Consumers are confused with too much choice but no one has calculated the cost to our quality of life. There are those who can cope and those who struggle, but we are all affected in one way or another.
Why is it that now that we are empowered with the ability to purchase more than ever before and with so much choice is depression on the increase and reaching a growing number of our children?
The Paradox of Choice provides the reason. It is a comfortable read and at the end there are steps to take to achieve a better perspective on our role as consumer in this culture.
I think teachers, parents as well as politicians, psychologists, business & the marketing community would receive a benefit by reading this book.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Are you sure you need a 60G iPod ?, 24 May 2006
By 
2cleverbyhalf (somewhere in the future) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.) (Paperback)
I had a guilty secret. I'd buy a gadget, think it was great for a while, stop using it and then feel guilty about getting the thing in the first place. Being a typical bloke, I rarely talked about this to anyone and thought it was just me being pathetic. Then I read this book and realised, yipee !, I'm just a shallow consumer and virtually everyone else feels the same - to a greater or lesser degree.

Schwartz exhaustively mines this tendency and matches a good overall structural discourse with really interesting snippets from psychological research. My only problem with the book is the ending, having devoted around 200 pages to analysis the last chapter about what to do about choice is quite perfunctory (don't compare too much, expect to be disappointed etc.).

Plus there's a real howler (for me anyway) right at the end when he states that you just have to accept that the 'best things in life' only go to those who do 'better'. But by 'best things' he means a bigger house or a faster car i.e. small incremental 'improvements' over what you already have. To be fair he does also state that you should be happy with 'adequate' but there was still that nasty allusion to the fact that you should 'know your place'. Better to simply laugh at the idiots out there who wreck their lives in the persuit of gadget happiness.

Mind you, have you seen that new iPod ?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For me, it was very useful and helpful - and refreshing..!, 22 Jun 2013
By 
Mr. R. O'regan (Your mum) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.) (Paperback)
I'm definitely a maximizer; reading this book was very refreshing for me! I could relate to the experiences Barry explained, I thought my 'problems' were just specific to me, but actually it turns out there are a whole type of human in our modern times, who have the same experiences as me.. so nice to know I wasn't alone..!

It helped reading this because I'm more aware of why I find it hard to chose. Sometimes trivial tasks, like getting a new camera, takes me ages and ages (because I research all the choices available.. and there are too many)

Barry explains the problems maximizers are faced with and gives plausible explanations on why modern living conditions makes it more difficult for maximizers and also why our modern environment causes more people to become maximizers..

Interestingly, at the beginning of the book, there are a few tests you can do to gauge how much of a maximizers you are and also how happy you are. I ran these tests on myself and a group of friends, and I did find the results as the book predicted, the more of a maximizers you are, the more unsatisfied with life you are..

Look, I won't bore you with lodes of writing but.. in summary:
* Booh is worth a read.. its only 236 pages, but a little long winded.. so I had to push myself to finish it.. but you know what, Im really glad I read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gamechanger - if you want it to be, 31 Dec 2012
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The "good enough" school of thought is one I used as a branding copywriter many years ago. Because I was changing good money I always wanted to write as best as I could, damn it, I wanted it perfect. But, more often than not, there was no way it could be - the brief was either non-descript or non-existent, the research materials would arrive three hours before deadline, then the client would change their mind about the tone of voice...and so on. When I stopped trying to be perfect (a maximiser in the framework of this book) and delivered what was good enough for the client, the brand, the brief, my rates went up, my clients were happier and so was I. I became a satisficer according to this book.
And this answers the question that first popped into my head when I read this: is good enough just settling for second best? I know the quality of my work went up, I know that if I could have taken a percentage of sales instead of a day rate I probably could have retired by now. So, if perect is unattainable, go for good enough because, well, it is good enough. It is perfect.

Good book for anyone coming from hard times to good times. Puts the abundance in perspective and gives you workable strategies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You are a marketer? Buy it., 11 Jun 2011
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This review is from: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.) (Paperback)
I'm one of those responsible for the paradox. One of those "on the other" side of the counter. With over ten years spent in marketing its hard for me to look at this book as a consumer only, although I believe a lot of consumers would benefit from the read. This is definitely not, nor was it intended to be, a book on marketing but it makes you ask serious questions about it, especially if you happen to be involved professionally. Should we, the marketers of all kinds, ever quit the chase and stop flooding consumers' minds with countless products, brands, promotions etc? Is not simplicity the best way to advance through the market? End there comes ethics. Do we do the right thing? Do we cross the fine line between delivering valuable alternatives to the market and creating havoc of information that is not possible to be ever digested by a normal human being?

The book is written from the point of view of a person who is very concerned and disturbed by what's going on with information flood that we as a consumers face. Still, there are serious implications for business, so it seems legitimate to view the book as an inspiring piece for marketing and advertising professionals as well. It will remind them, or should I say remind us, we do not work in vacuum, and what we do influences life of people and societies, sometimes in a very negative way. So while far away from simplistic, demagogic diagnosis blaming modern economy and especially marketing for all the evils of the world, it is calling for a serious reflection. That's my view. And it is surely biased as I guess the word "marketing" does not appear even once in the book. Never the less, please read it marketers and it will make you look at your job from a different angle.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unneveringly apt, 17 Mar 2010
This review is from: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.) (Paperback)
I'm a layman when it comes to psychology & sociology, but I found this book very easy to read. Barry Schwartz supports all his assertions with multiple examples from real-world and lab experiments. Unneveringly, I could recognise my own behaviour in the vast majority of the studies he quotes. I have found this book so intriguing, I have been quoting his arguments in most of my conversations for the past few months!

Beware, the first 2 chapters may be a little slow to get through, as he methodically works his way through the vast array of choices we have in our everyday lives. Once you get to the real meat in chapter 3, you'll be hooked!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb thinker, 11 Oct 2006
By 
J. Chambers "Mrs. Mirror" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.) (Paperback)
Barry Schwartz was one of my favourite speakers at a Positive Psychology conference I attended some years ago. His speech was one of the best and I bought the book as soon as it came out. I would recommend it highly to people who feel bombarded by the choices this world offers; the people who feel trapped by indecision, and the people who want to read a thought-provoking and excellent book about the choice aspect of every iota of 21st century living. Buy the book and read it.
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The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.)
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (P.S.) by Barry Schwartz (Paperback - 1 Feb 2005)
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