Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Barry Schwartz. Mastermind author or Captain Obvious?

Schwartz's podcast discusses the paradox of choice. In a nutshell, when individuals are granted too many options, they often choose to do nothing at all. When something is done, the individual will end up regretting the decision that was made. Why? Because that indeed defines the paradox of choice.

Ultimately, a person's expectations will be too high in the midst of the (theoretically) thousands of options which they are given. This notion of variety is what makes our world what it is: a place driven by individuality but conflicted by the war with practicality and convenience.

The man stresses that more is less--a simple idea. Yet, we as consumers find ourselves longing for more options and more variation in the way we look, eat, sleep, and feel. This indeed is the paradox of choice which Schwartz speaks of. In a consumer's mind, it is wonderful to have a bajillion different types of toothbrushes, scents, appliances, etc. However, this can also cause headaches, frustration, laziness, and inevitable heartburn. In my opinion, it's not that people choose not to make (for the sake of the discussion) purchasing decisions because there are just way too many options. They just go with what they believe is to be the choice which best maximizes quality and minimizes the tedious tasks that are involved with getting the best product. These tasks include but are not limited to:
  • research (whether it's online or a magazine, book)
  • asking around (probably the most common)
  • reading about all the benefits (whether it's on the product itself or again on the web)
  • comparison of competitors (which in my mind, is the most imporant but also most tedious)
Since society has turned competition into the norm, there's always going to be a competitor for everything out there somewhere. Thus, the precedent for varied options is set. Consumers have a myriad of choices in the products or services they are able to purchase.

A human's decision-making process is quite intriguing. First off, more often that not, he or she will purchase something that is not needed. Regarldess, an apprehension arises from the moment the purchase is even considered leading up all the way until after the decision is made. "Did I buy the right product? How will it fit me? Will my friends think it's cool? Will it perform the tasks I want it to in the best possible manner?" All questions which the consumer will likely find him or herself wrestling with at one point or another. The apprehension subsequently leads to a form of cognitive dissonance. Schwartz talked about how an individual will begin blaming themselves if the expectations of the purchase are not met. The second-guessing has begun.

I, for example, have been trying to purchase a pair of Nike Hyperdunk basketball shoes for nearly two and a half months now. For the longest time (well, what seemed relatively long at the time.. turned out to be only about a week or two) I could not decide which color I wanted the shoes in. Footlocker.com has 13 different colorways alone after getting rid of the white and blue ones (which at the time were a possibility).

The biggest problem of all was finding my size. These "kicks" are a hot commodity among "ballers" of all ages and word on the street is they are some of the most comfortable and performance-driven basketball shoes on the market. Kobe Bryant wore them for a span of two seasons, and many other NBA players wear them as well.

Still, the dilemma consisted of which size I needed, what color I would purchase, and where I would make my purchase. But as Schwartz suggested, since I have an unlimited amount of options, I have yet to choose one...

1 comment:

  1. How do you think I felt when I was trying to pick a color for someone else!? See why I gave in to the gift card? Did NOT think it would be that difficult...Good luck finding the shoe =)