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The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less

By Barry Schwartz

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2011 by Michael C. Gray

The world of the American consumer can be bewildering because of the overwhelming number of choices that we have for products and services.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz examines choice as a social-psychological phenomenon, principally from the standpoint of how we can defend ourselves as consumers from excessive choices to live sane lives.

Since marketing is about psychology and math, marketers should study this book to learn how to better merchandise or display products and present marketing messages.

For example, in a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called "When Choice Is Demotivating" by S. Iyengar and M. Lepper, samples of high-quality jams were offered to customers at a grocery store. 24 varieties were available to purchase. On one table, 6 varieties were offered for tasting; on the other, 24. While more customers visited the table with more samples, 30% of the customers with fewer choices actually bought jam, and only 3% of the customers with more choices bought jam.

Schwartz contrasts two buying styles. A Maximizer agonizes over making a decision with extensive research and price shopping. "Only the best will do." A Satificer will make a quicker, pragmatic decision. "Good enough is good enough." Almost all of us will choose one of these paths at different times for different categories of products or services.

According to Schwartz, to lead a sane life, we should prioritize the areas of decision making. Choose the Satisficer path for most decisions. Choose the Maximizer path for only the most important decisions.

Whichever path you choose, accept that your decision won't be perfect. (Remember when that television went on sale shortly after you bought one?) Avoid regret.

As a businessperson and/or as a consumer, The Paradox of Choice is worthwhile reading for more insight into how to present choices and make decisions in a choice-rich society.

Buy it on Amazon: The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.

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