As we have gained economic growth and higher living standards in western societies, we have also gained freedom of choice.
In his book the Paradox of Choice – Why More is Less and in the TED talk below, psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied. It is a fascinating speech. He provides ample evidence that we are faced with far too many choices on a daily basis, providing an illusion of a multitude of options when few honestly different ones actually exist.
The conclusions Schwartz draws will be familiar to anyone who has flipped through all the similar channels of cable television only to find that nothing good is on. Whether choosing a health-care plan, choosing a college class or even buying a pair of jeans, Schwartz, drawing extensively on his own work in the social sciences, shows that a bewildering array of choices floods our exhausted brains, ultimately restricting instead of freeing us.