How the Freedom of Choice Can Be Confusing and What to Do about It
Have you ever found yourself baffled by the hundreds of boxes of cereal in front of you in the grocery store? Then you will be familiar with the concept of too much choice.
In today’s modern society, we are given numerous options to choose from. In fact, freedom of choice from many different options (whether it be in the grocery store or on Tinder) is often presented as the only means of making the right choice. However, too many options to choose from can, in fact, cause great confusion and stress. In this post, we take a look at how freedom of choice can impact us negatively. Moreover, what to do about it if this affects you. Rarely do we view having a choice in a negative context. It is important to note that having the freedom to choose spans from a privileged starting point. Indeed, freedom of choice is good for us. For instance, it promotes our autonomy and allows us to select the best possible options. However, some studies show that too much choice is bad for us. We all know the saying ‘less is more‘, so does this apply when it comes to choices? Barry Schwartz is the pioneer when it comes to choice theory. Coining the term “The Paradox of Choice”, Schwartz’s research has found that when we are faced with too much choice, it can cause us confusion and stress. It can also lead us to defer or even prevent making decisions.
The Paradox of Choice means that when we do come to make a decision we can end up being dissatisfied with our choice. We may even regret the one we’ve made. Schwartz found that we are more likely to make a decision when faced with fewer options, not more. This is an interesting ideology when it comes to how we react as consumers. In one experiment, Schwartz offered a large selection of jam and a small selection of jam to consumers (along with a dollar off coupon). 24% of customers shown a smaller selection of jams bought a jar. However, only 3% of customers did when shown a larger selection. Can too much choice be a bad thing? Of course, we shouldn’t get too concerned about having to choose from too many jams. But Schwartz’s research delves into the concept of unlimited choice. Whether it’s choosing what to watch on Netflix, the University degree we study or selecting a potential partner on a dating app – the choices can be endless. More to the point, the weight of these decisions can lead to stress, anxiety, regret, and dissatisfaction. Do you identify with any of the following statements? Here is how you can make the right choice, every time. Very few decisions we make are as life-changing as we might think. Putting the decisions you make into perspective can take the pressure of your ultimate choice. Many of the decisions we make every day will have no lasting effects. For example, what candy bar we choose to buy or whether to have soup or a sandwich for lunch. Remember, you can always change your mind, even for bigger decisions, such as buying a house. By putting choices into perspective, it can help to take the pressure off and release us from the fear of making the ‘wrong’ decision. While the freedom of choice has led to unlimited options in almost every area of our lives, you can take it upon yourself to limit your exposure to those options. For example, if you are buying a car you can decide to look around just one garage. Or if you want to buy a new winter coat, you can limit yourself to browsing just a few shops that you know you like. If you don’t know what you’re missing out on, you can’t miss it. Coping with too much choice can be a whole lot easier if you are clear about what you want. With the freedom of choice, it is easy to get distracted from our real wants and desires.
There are just so many other options put in front of us. With whatever choice you wish to make, have a clear idea about what you want and don’t want. This will assist you in eliminating the wrong options and help you to be satisfied with your choice. Removing the gravity behind the choices that we make is an important step in helping us to manage the freedom of choice. Be aware that too much choice can be a bad thing. This will help you to navigate your way through what life has to offer. Likewise, it will assist you to rationalize the decision-making process. Arm yourself with the knowledge that most decisions are not life-changing.
Therefore, knowing the world isn’t going to end if you choose the wrong toothpaste makes choosing in a world full of choice a whole lot easier. R.
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