Having too many choices is not as great as it sounds

By Christina Fazio

Comment Staff

Grocery stores are the perfect example of having too many choices to choose from. Photo by Will From Last Night on WordPress, used under Creative Commons license.
Grocery stores are the perfect example of having too many choices to choose from. Photo by Will From Last Night on WordPress, used under Creative Commons license.

Shaped by our country’s ideals and values, the thought of contemplating whether or not too much freedom can actually be a bad thing, is an idea considered taboo in terms of the culture we exist in.

With just about everything that exists within today’s consumer market, we are constantly inundated with an overwhelming number of choices to select from.

Although the thought of having a wide selection of choices to choose from may seem like a beneficial and accommodating service, Dr.Barry Schwartz, psychologist and author of “The Paradox of Choice,” best challenged this idea when he said, “We are past the point where options improve our welfare.”

On a recent trip to the supermarket, I consciously entered the soup aisle and found myself utterly perplexed as I gave thought to how many variations soup actually comes in. I faced 63 types to choose from, and couldn’t help but question whether or not this wide range in assortment was beneficial.

The choice overload we are inevitably faced with throughout our daily lives is a large source of time consumption. While none of us have the time to actually inspect each item available for content, quality and pricing, we do, however, spend a longer amount of time when it comes to choosing from 100 options versus five options.

Take the paint swatch isle at Home Depot. There are very few of us that can enter the aisle and immediately select one color while surrounded by hundreds of others that would paint the wall. The more choices we are faced with, the more time we waste over such trivial tasks.

As if narrowing down a final selection isn’t hard enough, the burden of freedom within choice selection continues to exist, even after we have already made a decision. The more choices we are faced with, there is an increased likelihood of experiencing post-decision regret.

The overabundance of choices we are faced with fosters the opportunity for us to second guess the decisions we have made and ponder the “coulda, shoulda, wouldas.”

Do you ever catch yourself in the car listening to a song that is so-so, but you keep scanning the other stations because there is something so unsettling about the thought that you are missing out on a better song that might be playing?

When there is an unnecessary array of items to choose from, it is so easy to begin to imagine the possibilities of if you were to have selected one of the alternative options.

As you surrender to a last resort parking spot in Tower lot, do you find yourself giving thought to the possibility of someone at that moment just leaving the Shea-Durgin lot and freeing up a much better spot than the one you just got in Tower?

The regret we experience at the thought of how we could have made a better choice prevents us from gaining any satisfaction we could have had from the option we have actually chosen.

How can you enjoy the class you are currently enrolled in if you spend much time imagining how much better it would have been if you took it with a different professor?

In a flourishing capitalist society, where one is forced to narrow their options down to one final selection, it seems as if the cost of freedom within choice really does come at a price.

Live simple, live within the moment and learn to accept the scenarios we often describe as it is what it is.


Christina Fazio is an Opinion writer for The Comment. Email her at cfazio@student.bridgew.edu.



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