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Paradox of Choice

The ad running on the TV reads - "Ask your gastroenterologist about Humira, with Humira remission is possible'.(1)

This Ad is the epitome of the meaning of 'choice'. Letting people go up to their doctors and ask them to prescribe them medicines based on seeing TV Ads. Almost letting them choose their own medicines, but is this much freedom of choice good?

I came across this profound thought while going through this brilliant ted talk by Barry Scwartz.

My notes from his talk:

Some choice is good, but a lot of choice actually 'hurts'

Western mindset for more freedom drives from:

  1. It's a fundamental human right

  2. More freedom, means people choose and optimize their own welfare → hence more aggregated welfare

But when does Choice 'hurt'

  1. Introduces paralysisleads to procrastination on key decisions → loss of value from loss of time - most valuable resource of our lives

  2. Introduces regret and anticipated regret → First moment of despair post choosing, your brain starts regretting of having taken this choice and thinks grass was greener on the other side (alternative decision)

  3. Introduces Opportunity costs → Whenever you choose option 1, you think about what features of other option you missed and keep evaluating it as your opportunity cost

  4. Escalation of expectations → Since you are given so many options, you feel that you will find the PERFECT match for you, which actually doesn't exist. (Akin to me and my search for the white tiger in personal life :P)

  5. Self-Blame → When something goes wrong, you start blaming yourself since YOU chose it in the first place vs being given to you. If the choice is imposed on you, then you try to make it work as it was never your decision and you have to just succeed anyway.

So next time you are given a choice, think, but then think again :)

Another one of my favorite GSB Professors Baba Shiv also speaks on the same subject with a lot of personal anecdotes and wealth of insights here.


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