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andymccoy

Ecletic Reader

I'll read just about anything that might be interesting and love to learn about new things.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less - Barry Schwartz The thesis of the book is a solid one that I can understand. The psychological mechanisms of adaptation and some of the heuristics were familiar because of prior psychological education. However, I was unimpressed with the scientific discussions in the book. A number of studies are referenced, though the references are generally made through a statement of the overall finding. No discussion of statistical or practical significane or even a mention of sample sizes. This wasn't a problem for me through most of the book because I had read about the studies elsewhere. I also had a problem with his use of evolution in the discussion about why our brains are not equipped for choice among a large number of options. I am generally intrigued by evolutionary psychology and find that a number of the hypothesis posited in the field seem to have some validity (see The Time Paradox and Righteous Minds for examples of in depth and much more valid discussions of the implications of evolution on human psychology). In this book the entire discussion was devoted to a throw away paragraph that seemed to assume that humans in early civilizations made rational choices through a mental cost-benefit analysis. This is problematic when you consider that foresight is not generally credited as an attribute to humans living day to day through hunting and gathering.

The book also has a serious flaw in discussing psychology in the realm of choice solely through options that are only available to the upper-middle class. Choosing between luxury goods and extravagant vacations is not something the ultra rich (who can afford to purchase multiple luxury goods and go on most of their desired vacations, thereby limiting the need to choose) or the lower classes (who cannot afford to go on any vacations or afford luxury cars on any frequent basis) are likely to be overly concerned with. The paradox of choice seems to only apply to a small subset of wester, educated, individualistic, rich, and democratic (WEIRD; see the study by Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan to see why extrapolating psychological results from Americans to other populations is likely to give false behavioral predictions) countries.

My last problem with this book was it's length. The preface and first section could have been dealt with in a 15 pages at most. The rest of the book could have been covered in the same detail in about 100 pages. This should have been a magazine article in Time or a pop psychology publication. I enjoy learning about psychology, but this book is not published for individuals looking for a scholarly take on the psychology or philosopy of choice abundance.