On the benefits and drawbacks of choice

I watched the new David Mitchell's Soapbox today, which was all about how too much choice is bad or you. He points out some very good reasons why having a lot of choice tends to make people unhappy.

It seems to me that it's perfectly sensible that too much choice makes people unhappy. I mean, there have been loads of articles and TED talks about it. But it's not necessarily that obvious, is it? So I thought I'd gather up all the information I know about it in one place.

Starting with the case FOR choice, here's Malcolm Gladwell's famous Spaghetti Sauce TED talk:

The bit at the end, about coffee groups -- "The difference between X and X is the difference between coffee that makes you cringe, and coffee that makes you deleriously happy," -- seems like it ought to shoot a hole in the argument for less choice. But the problem with choice isn't about having 3 kinds of coffee and not knowing which one to choose, it's about having 100.

Increasing choice has a rate of diminishing returns so dramatic that it ends up reversing itself, what Barry Schwartz calls the Paradox of Choice:

But cutting all the choice entirely isn't helpful, as Gladwell covered. So, how do we decide? It seems that choosing when and how to choose is a skill unto itself, and may be one of the significant life skills of the 21st century. Here's my last video embed, The Art of Choosing:

Schwartz covered the ways in which choosing hurts satisfaction -- Iyengar covers the ways in which choosing hurts sales.

There's a description, somewhere on the internet that I couldn't find, of a wine store. They only sold 100 options for wine at any given time -- 50 white, 50 red, subdivided into 5 categories of 10 each.  Once you figured out what kind of wine you were looking for, there was plenty of time to learn about each of the wines available and make a good, informed decision you can feel confident about, and of which you can appreciate the consequences.

I wish I had more access to choices like that -- the kind of handholding choosing that can help an amateur make good decisions, and develop a genuine sense of comprehension within a complex area.

That's all the good content on choosing I know off the top of my head. I hope it helps.