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    The Love Choice

    by Barry Schwartz, Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, and author of The Paradox of Choice and Psychology Today’s The Choices Worth Having blog.

    It seems obvious that the more choice people have, the better off they are. Whether it’s about salad dressings, places to live, things to order on a menu, or romantic partners, the more options there are, the more likely you are to find just what you want.

    Obvious, but empirically false.

    There is now ample evidence that although some choice is good, there can be too much of a good thing. And when people have too many options, they are paralyzed into indecision. If they overcome paralysis and choose, they make bad decisions. And if they manage to make good decisions, they are dissatisfied, convinced that another option would have been better. These phenomena have been observed in choices of consumer products like jams and chocolates, choices of mutual funds for retirement, and choices of potential partners in speed dating settings. And the problems are exacerbated in people who are out to find the “best” (we call them “maximizers”) rather than just “good enough” (we call them “satisficers”). While there are probably not too many people in frantic pursuit of the “best” salad dressing, it’s a whole other story when it comes to romantic partners.

    So, counterintuitive as it may seem, the evidence suggests that people are more likely to form romantic attachments, and be satisfied with them, if the set of possibilities is limited. “Limit your options” is not easy advice to follow in modern America, especially when it comes to romance. But it may be worth your while to try.

    *****

    Read more by Barry Scwartz on Psychology Today’s The Choices Worth Having blog.

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