The Paradox Of Choice

Going on holiday last year was a complete joy because we stayed in the Welsh mountains miles from ‘civilisation’.

Although we weren’t actually stranded, shopping for bits and pieces meant a choice of one local shop (about 6 miles away) which stocked whatever it liked.

This was great because our choice was narrowed dramatically. We bought far more strategically.

This compared to our usual existence where ‘back home’ we had a choice of supermarkets all offering their own huge choices of stuff.

When we went home, going from a local shop to a supermarket giant was a shock and a bit overwhelming. You’d think we’d be happy to back to ‘all that choice’ but I wasn’t. The choice was confusing because there was just too much.

This is why shopping takes so long. You see a product and then about ten variations of it. Too much faffing about and indecision makes things stressful. Sometimes choice can be demotivating and less really is more.

And so to Christmas. And choice. Too much of it.

Barry Schwartz discusses this in his TED Talk and there is another video underneath which is a bit dated because since that was made, the choice levels have exploded.


What has this to do with education? Resources. There are so many to choose from that we have a similar issue in that there are sometimes too many products to select from and how will you know whether you have made the ‘right’ choice. Buying something for the whole-school can be an expensive mistake.

As Schwartz (2005) says in his book,

….choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures.

So as Christmas approaches, go your local shop and limit your choices and preserve your happiness.

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