Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Line Between Clarity and Chaos: An Interview with Barry Schwartz

How to filter information so it is usable ...

"In order to read this article, you got a pointer. Whether that pointer was from a newsletter, your RSS aggregator, a blog, a search, or even just a recommendation from another human, somehow you got here. You got here despite the piles of other stories and articles competing for your attention. This one made the cut.

How did you make that decision? Can we make successful decisions, or are we doomed to indecision? What does the now-terrifying number of options available to us do to our ability to make successful decisions?

How do we, well, choose?

Boxes and Arrows talked with Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, to get insight into new filters, successful strategies, and how the silly number of choices we now have is affecting our everyday lives.

Liz Danzico: Can you choose some key concepts from your book, The Paradox of Choice, that really drove the idea?

Barry Schwartz: We’ve always taken for granted that being able to make choices is good for our well-being. And that, as it turns out, is true. We couldn’t be human if we weren’t able to make choices; trivial ones and significant ones—where to live, what kind of work to do, who to marry, what kind of cereal to buy, the whole gamut. So choice is good. And that’s a truth.

In 50 years of research and psychology, there is study after study showing that people who are able to choose X were more satisfied than people who simply got X. But in all of those studies, the contrast was always with two options. And if two options are better than no choice, then three must be better than two, and four must be better than three, and so on. But no one ever studied that. The empirical basis for the idea is that the more choice people have, the better they are. And it seems perfectly reasonable."    (Continued via Boxes and Arrows)    [Usability Resources]

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