The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Are you a maximiser or a satisficer?

There are two types of decision-makers. Satisficers (yes, “satisfiers” is a word) make a decision once their criteria are met; when they find the hotel or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied. Maximizers want to make the best possible decision; even if they see a bicycle that meets their requirements, they can’t make a decision until they’ve examined every option.

Studies suggest that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers expend more time and energy reaching decisions, and they’re often anxious about their choices. They find the research process exhausting, yet can’t let themselves settle for anything but the best. Maximisers are competitive. Knowing that someone else has done better makes it difficult for them to be satisfied with their result, even if it’s well above the average. This makes it quite hard to be happy with life.

‘It’s not just coffee-maker purchases they stress over – and second-guess themselves about – it’s also the big life decisions such as choosing a mate, buying a house or applying for a job. ‘Even after considerable deliberation before choosing a mate or a house, a high-level maximiser may still feel unhappy, even depressed, with his or her final decision.’

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