In defense of the simple life

Why too many choices may cause more harm than good

Variety is the spice of life, but is there such a thing as too much choice? According to a recent study (slated for publication), the endless array of options for everything from diet to schools to careers can paralyze us with indecision. And once we finally make a choice we often regret our decision, wondering if, given all the other possibilities, it was truly the best one. To make matters worse, this navel-gazing can lead to selfishness, as we become obsessed with ourselves, and what our decisions say about who we are. As the study’s author, Hazel Rose Markus, a psychology professor at Stanford University, explains: “The enormous opportunity for growth and self-advancement that flows from unlimited freedom of choice may diminish rather than enhance subjective well-being.” The paralysis of choice, however, is somewhat of a bourgeois pickle: the study found that non-Westerners and working class Westerners don’t put the same emphasis on having an abundance of choice as the middle and upper classes.