B. Schwartz – The Paradox Of Choice

I’ve heard for the first time the term “FOMO” a couple of years ago, by chance, while I was watching one of my favorite tv shows.

What does that term stand for? If you don’t know already, it stands for “Fear Of Missing Out”.

I think it’s pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll give a simple example anyway: your friends invite you to go out to the hottest new bar in town, but you can’t go because you have a family dinner which was set a long time ago. So you cancel everything with your family just to go out with your friends because you fear they’ll have a lot of fun and you won’t be there.

Okay, so now let’s view this as a consumer. We have to make everyday decisions, like for example, which yogurt to buy, what shampoo, what career path to choose, what tv shows to watch, what burger to eat at McDonald’s and which way on the metro is the fastest to get where you want. Between many others.


A wider range of choice to choose from gives us, consumers, more freedom. But, see, an abundance of choice makes it harder for the consumer to make one single decision. Therefore that freedom that I mentioned earlier, isn’t exactly connected with happiness.


Larger consumer choices can greatly increase anxiety for shoppers.


And this is what psychologist Barry Schwartz concluded, author of the book The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less.


“Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically.”


 On his study, Schwartz argues how happiness is affected by success or failure of goal achievement. With various choices, the goal achievement might happen in more than one choice, and that’s where anxiety comes. Too much choice doesn’t exactly help the consumers taking care of their own wants. By choosing one product, we have the fear that we’re going to miss out by not choosing one of the others, and that can happen on every decision when you have more than one choice.

Schwartz points out recent evidence that shows how positive emotion has on decision-making: generally, people are inclined to consider more possibilities when they are feeling happy. The opposite happening, of course, when the person is feeling a bit negative.

As an example of a specific product, he cites a study by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and Mark Lepper of Stanford University. Who found that when participants were faced with a smaller rather than larger array of jam, they were actually more satisfied with their tasting.


When it comes to making a decision, Schwartz based on what psychologist Herbert. A. Simon had referred, he agrees on dividing consumers as maximizers and satisfiers. 
Maximizer: is a perfectionist, they need to make sure that all their purchases and decisions are the best that they could ever make. They analyze super attentively every alternative they have and can imagine and it can be a very arduous task.

Satisfier: they have criteria, but they’re not worried about missing out on something better because they don’t even think about it.

At last, he describes a strategy for making good decision to be something like this:
  1. Figure out your goal or goals
  2. Evaluate the importance of each goal
  3. Array the options
  4. Evaluate how likely each of the options is to meet your goal(s)
  5. Pick the winning option
  6. Modify goals.



“Choose less and feel better.”  – Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less