Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice

A fantastic talk by Barry Schwartz which feels rather profoundly sociological for a psychologist. Or maybe SI is just haunted by the voice of Tony Giddens:

“What to do? How to act? Who to be? These are focal questions for everyone living in circumstances of late modernity – and ones which, on some level or another, all of us answer, either discursively or through day-to-day social behaviour.” (Giddens 1991a: 70)


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  1. Completely agree with Barry Schwartz, but I would also add that many elements conceptualised as ‘choices’ don’t entail actual alternatives but they are still conceptualised as ‘choices’ in order to preserve what he calls ‘the official dogma of all Western industrial societies’ (example: the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the States).

  2. I loved this lecture. Brilliant observations. But his description of the parent at the soccer game with all the technology distracting them from the actual game was, to me, a reflection of the dilemma women have faced for decades. “If I’m with my family and not at work, should I be?” The difference in this generation is that we now have ways to let our work into our personal lives, which in some ways serves to keep our personal lives further out of the workplace.

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