Posts Tagged ‘choice’

Happiness and Choice

Some recent evidence suggests that people may be happier when they have fewer choices. Barry Schwartz ( in a recent TED Talk discusses the “paradox” of choice in the Western culture. While we tout our personal freedoms as a trait to be emulated in the world, it is something that, according to Schwartz, actually “paralyzes” us. We often end up regretting our choices and always looking for ways to maximize our happiness without ever being satisfied with the choices we do make. Additionally, he argues that often we are not well equipped to be making complex decisions at all. Dan Gilbert (, in his TED Talk, discusses a similar topic and presents research that supports his theories. In his talk, he states that, after one year, research shows that a paraplegic and a lottery winner are about the same level of happiness. He expounds on this point and concludes that human beings can be truly happy in extraordinary circumstances as an adaptive measure.

My parents often reminisce about their childhood and how they were happy with just one toy when they were kids and could not believe the overabundance of “stuff” that children have in modern day America. They also look at me incredulously when I ask them if they were “happy” with some of the conditions in which they grew up and respond: “We did not have a choice” implying, of course, that they were happy because they had no other option.

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11 2011