I just listened to this presentation from PopTech by Barry Schwartz (psych. prof. at Swarthmore). He provides a good set of data showing that at some point additional choice is not just useless, it is actively bad. One of his examples was speed dating with 20 dates per eveing resulted in fewer matches than speed dating with 10 dates per evening!
More choices apparently increase buyer’s remorse
More choices increase the oppotunity cost of any given choice.
What a college education does seems to do in the US is it enables you to leave working at mcdonalds and go instead to work at starbucks …. while you wait desparate for the answer to the question what
should I do with my life to emerge… and it doesn’t emerge….”
His implicit calim is that commitments result in greater happiness.
In Built to Last, Collins and Poras provide a lot of evidence that successful companies are those that don’t simply seek money, but that have cult like cultures about fulfilling the company’s mission and achieving its (BIG) goals. By foreclosing choices, this cult like culture makes it easy for employees to coordinate and get things done with less management overhead (e.g. driving on the right hand side).
So modern psychology, and modern business theory all tell us that choice foreclosure is good. Where they all appear to fail is in providing us with tools to know how to foreclose choice (to what/whom do you commit).
In a talk called “5 Levels of Pleasure” my friend, Rabbi Glaser, described the various sorts of pleasure (happiness) that comes from various types of emotional investments/commitments/forclosures-of-choices. He too fails to provide a way of making choices, but at very least he provides us with a way of distinguishing investment from consumption in each category.
Rabbi Glaser’s 5 levels of pleasure
(you may need to scroll down here due to formatting wierdness with my stylesheet)
|1. Physical||To a taste (e.g. wine, music, etc)||Time, attention, opportunity||Glutonny, No Pain|
|2. Emotional||To a person. Kvelling.||His/Her flaws. Loving others.||Lust. Taking. Using.|
|3. Moral (meaning)||To a cause for which you are willing to die.||Social (Looking bad).||Looking/feeling good.|
|4. Creative||To a talent (build expertise).||Being a jack of all trades.||Power|
|5. Spiritual||To a community. (flag, family).||Letting go of ego.||Idolatry|
Perhaps the solution to finding your fields lies in existentialism. But it doesn’t quite get me there. Any ideas?