19 October, 2020

Life In The Time Of Choices

Given several choices can free us. But they can squeeze us, make us error-prone, and push us into a state of decision-paralysis. The reason: our minds restrict our choices

Photograph by Getty Images
Life In The Time Of Choices

Those of us, who are in our 40s and 50s, and even older, will tend to look at ourselves as ‘Satisficers’, i.e. we chose a ‘good’ option, rather than the best one. This was because either there was a lack of choice — the best wasn’t available in India then — or the best was too expensive to afford. The import liberalization of the 1980s, initiated by the late Rajiv Gandhi, changed many of us into ‘Maximizers’, who sought the best option available. This was because suddenly there were wide arrays of choices in the markets. The trend quickened after the economic reforms of the 1990s.

As more of us became Maximizers, since we could exercise our choices — choose between dozens of vehicle brands, toothpastes, reams, packaged food, clothes, etc — we felt ourselves liberated, free, and autonomous. According to academicians, Barry Schwartz and Andrew Ward, this opening up of choices enabled us “to tell the world who we are and what we care about”. This explains why most philosophers over the centuries...



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