We make decisions a lot of times, be it deciding what to do on a holiday, to deciding the educational course to taking up a job to complex decisions like choosing a life partner. The most interesting thing I realized after reading the book is the verbalization of our thought process that goes behind decision making. I do take decisions sometimes in order to maximize and sometimes in order to Satisfice. But I had never pondered over the importance of being thought process behind the same and how it influences me.
In the words of author Barry Schwartz, this is an economy where we are flooded with choices in all sorts of decisions we take. In this world of abundance of choices, it is natural that customer does like the scenario as it increases the chance of obtaining the right product which meets his expectations. However we increasingly see that this abundance of choices are not really leading to an equivalent increase in the subjective and objective satisfaction levels of the users. More and more , they are feeling overwhelmed by the choices and tend to increase the dissatisfaction levels of the decision makers.
“Paradox of choice” tries to explain this phenomenon prevalent in our society. Majority of people want control over their lives, but at the same time they want to simplify their lives. One of the causes could be that choice per se is fine but the cumulative effect of choices we need to take that is causing quite an amount of distress
In deciding and choosing among the usual process is figure out the goals, evaluate the importance of each goal, getting information, analyzing the choices, and then taking a decision. In each of the above steps ,there are scenarios where the decision making process becomes difficult.
Take for example, if a person decides to go for higher education:
1.Quantity of Information : The number of websites, universities from where the information relating to a particular field can be culled has grown by leaps and bounds
2.Quality of Information : We are more carried away by the secondary information, salience of the information than the fact. If one of our friends says that he has had good experience / bad experience with a univ, we take his word for granted, even though unbiased information found in reports seem to be saying otherwise.
3.Evaluating the Information: The book introduces Prospect theory which was developed by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979. Starting from empirical evidence, it describes how individuals evaluate losses and gains. Individuals tend to be risk averse when it comes to gains and risk seeking when it comes to losses. One can see this clearly in stock markets where individuals are satisfies with a small gains/ large gains and do not take a risk with a small stock that might potentially give a higher return. Similar is the case of people opting for entrepreneurial ventures, where there is a chance of windfall profits, but most of the individuals stick to high paying jobs. Coming to the example under discussion, most of the students face these issues while evaluating the potential gains and potential losses of choosing among various universities
4.Trade-offs: It is usual that when we have options before us, each option has a certain feature which could be absent in others. Hence the decision making process of a person involves analyzing various opportunity costs of the options. The more the options, the more the opportunity cost.
5.Type of people taking the decision :Maximizers and Satisficers: Decision making under a variety of choices becomes a troubling issue if the person is a maximiser than satisficer. A maximiser tends to shop for the best goods, best restaurant, etc, whereas a Satisficer is on the look out for a “good enough” product.In a lot of cases in our lives, we unconsciously tend to be maximizers, thus robbing ourselves of the precious time we could have used it for some other purposes. Maximising by itself is not inappropriate, but when it is applied to all the decisions in our chores, then it robs and makes us an automaton, where we keep processing information for deciding the best alternative. A person choosing among an array of universities will find the process daunting if he is a maximizer as each of the univ will have some pros and cons. Evaluating all the options does involve a lot of time.
Apart from the above mentioned factors Regret, Adaptation to the choice already made and thus seeking a novel experience again,Self-blame for a wrong choice and tendency for social comparisons makes the decision making process a difficult one , in the light of more choices.
Sometimes, the community places some constraints and hence the individual is less burdened to make a choice. In countries, where divorce is considered a taboo and looked down upon, the social fabric has remained more uniform and decisions relating to marriage, family are considered irreversible. However in the western nations where there is no social constraint on the individual, the choice of deciding and the fact that the decisions can be reversible does tear the fabric of community. There are more single parent families, more divorce rates, people putting off marriages and social commitments , all these under the name of ” perfect choice”.
Now coming to the ultimate question of How to deal with the world of choice? The author comes out with some specific suggestions.
* Choose when to choose
* Be a chooser, not a picker
* Satisfice more and Maximize less
* Make your decision non-reversible
* An attitude of gratitude
* Regret less
* Control Expectations
* Learn to love constraints for it lessens the choice you need to make
Overall an interesting read about the range of choices we are engulfed with day in day out, and what we need to consciously do to save us from the time we spent on decisions.