I recently finished Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. Schwartz’s thesis is that although options and personal autonomy are crucial to our mental health, as our choices (in consumption, work, relationships, etc.) expand, depression and anxiety mount. Publisher’s Weekly describes the book as “part research summary, part introductory social sciences tutorial, part self-help guide”.
Schwartz makes approximately seven interesting points but he makes them repeatedly for some 230-odd pages. Sometimes he makes the same point in different ways and sometimes he makes the same point in the same way. At one point, I actually suspected that there’d been a printing error and I’d accidentally read the same chapter twice.
The author references some interesting studies but, as is typical with this sort of pop-psychology book, his conclusions often emphasize a causal relationship that isn’t necessarily there and he leaves out important factors such as sample size. As a result, his findings often feel cheap and simplistic.
I was also put off by the privileged nature of his perspective; nearly all of his examples involved Cape Cod vacations, luxury vehicles, and recreational shopping. I had trouble relating to this and it made me wonder about his intended audience– I suppose that same audience who has too many opportunities and too much discretionary time to contemplate them.