Monday, February 1, 2010

Too Much of A Good Thing: Teaching THE PARADOX OF CHOICE

There was an article in the New York Times last week about how iPhone and iPod Touch users have the choice to download nearly 140,000 (and counting) available apps, but the reality is that most users tend to favor 5 to 10 apps maximum. I know that is the case with myself. My 16-year old nephew was recently drooling over my iPhone, and the first thing he said was "wow, you have a lot of apps!" I only use a few faithfully every day—the New York Times, Facebook, Sirius/XM, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, and Solitaire (the perfect app for the work commute)—but that still doesn't stop me from downloading additional apps (especially when they're free).

The ideology of how too much choice can sometimes not be such a good thing is the theme of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz, a Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. Whether your students are buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, registering for courses, or choosing a doctor, their everyday decisions—both big and small—have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which they are presented.

Students assume that more choices—the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination—mean better options and greater satisfaction. Schwartz warns them to beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make us question the decisions we make before we even make them, it can set us up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make us blame ourselves for any and all failures.

If you are interested in adopting this book for a class, you may order an exam copy. If you have already ordered the book for a class, please order a complimentary desk copy.


  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  2. Thanks for this. This is the first time that i have visited your blog. More articles to come hopefully.