The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

Last night I finished Barry Schwartz‘s The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, the final book in my informal study of positive psychology and the science and economics of happiness. The other books I read were:

And the ones I intend to read later this year on this topic are:

Anyway, I enjoy reading many books in one subject area to really learn a lot from different sources. What’s great about this is that each book in the subject area gets easier to read as you become more familiar with the terms specific to that topic. But along with that comes the feeling that every book is kind of the same!

I’d say that while The Paradox of Choice does mention research done by Martin E. P. Seligman (Authentic Happiness), Sonja Lyubomirsky (The How of Happiness) and Robert H. Frank (The Economic Naturalist and Choosing the Right Pond), this book is most like Daniel Gilbert‘s Stumbling on Happiness.

That’s because Stumbling on Happiness and The Paradox of Choice both focus most on the idea that what people think makes them happy is not what actually makes them happy.

I really enjoyed Stumbling on Happiness, more than The Paradox of Choice, though I suspect that may simply be because of the order in which I read them; thus The Paradox of Choice no longer seems fresh or innovative.

I also suspect that the reason I was not overly impressed by The Paradox of Choice is because this book was published in 2004 and now in 2008, many of the findings in this book are commonly accepted and well known. For example, I’ve read many articles in the NYTimes in recent years about the idea that fewer choices lead to a boost in happiness though most people believe that more choices equals greater happiness (sometimes called the tyranny of choice):

Okay, well I didn’t realize that Schwartz himself wrote many of these NYTimes pieces…still that definitely explains why the material did not seem fresh to me. I felt the same way when I read Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, when I was consciously aware of having read many of the examples from the book in NYTimes articles by the authors.

Anyway, I don’t want to give you the impression that I didn’t like The Paradox of Choice. I did enjoy it, I just didn’t find it as exciting as many of the other books I’ve read lately on positive psychology and the psychology and economics of happiness.

If you’re interested in finding out more, click here to check out this PBS interview with Schwartz.

And if my comparison to Stumbling on Happiness has intrigued you, click here to read the NYTimes review or here to read an excerpt.

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One response to “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz

  1. Pingback: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz « Adventures in Reading

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