The Paradox of Choice February 6, 2009Posted by Jussi Huotari in : travel , trackback
How much time did you spend in choosing your flights last time? Going through various options and different flight plans takes a lot of time nowadays. There are so many websites to check and so many different routes for getting from A to B that choosing the best one takes ages. And how to define “the best” in this context? Is it measured by $ or by time or by aircraft’s comfortability or …
Following a friend’s recommendation I read a book by Barry Schwartz called “The Paradox of Choise: Why More Is Less“. In the book Schwartz argues that abundance of choice is actually a bad thing:
We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of choice overload: it can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures.
Barry Schwartz divides people in maximizers and satisficers. Maximizer seek and accept only the best. Satisficers settle for good enough and do not worry about the possibility that there might be something better. If you’re a maximizer, choosing a flight is both time consuming and stressful.
I think some travel services actually target maximizers. Yapta tracks flight prices and alerts you when prices drop. Farecast predicts flight and hotel prices so that you know when to buy. And of course there are a huge number of aggregators who search multiple airline and travel sites for the absolutely lowest price.
Technology can help maximizers but, according to Schwarz, the only real solution is to train yourself to be a satisficer. You’ll have choose when to choose: “Where to travel for holiday?” is much more important than finding the cheapest flight. Thus focus on finding a great destinaion! And you’ll have to think about the opportunity cost of spending time hunting for the best when good enough is already found.
The book is a nice read. Barry Schwartz presents a few thought provoking examples but I’d say the tale could have been told using half the pages he does.