Thursday, October 6, 2011

Paradox of Choice

I was very very interested in 'the paradox of choice' which was referenced in class, because I absolutely suffer from this phenomenon; the idea that the more choices we are given, the more dissatisfied we become.  When you are only given one or two options, the result may not be ideal, but at least you can find satisfaction that this is the provider’s fault and not your own.  But when you have a million choices, suddenly you are stuck with the responsibility if something is not perfect, because you are the one who chose that item!  I find this when I go grocery shopping, and most specifically in the salad dressing isle.  Who would have thought something as innocent as salad dressing could possibly give me so much grief?  But the number of options makes picking out salad dressing a truly stressful experience for me!  Not only do I have to consider the flavor of salad dressing I want, but I have to deal with sorting through the varying prices, calorie count, brand name…all in all making this an extremely stressful isle. 

I also notice this when I go out to a restaurant.  I take absolutely forever with my menu because if I am going to be spending a lot of money on a meal, I want to be fully satisfied that I got what I actually wanted.  I often leave restaurants feeling disappointed in my decision, and not because the food wasn’t delicious!  I am the absolute opposite of a picky eater; but if I have the notion that there could have been something else that I would have enjoyed more in that moment, it makes it difficult to ever grasp perfect satisfaction? 

I think that libraries encounter this problem with the sheer volume of books available.  I sometimes get overwhelmed when going into the library because I always think- my favorite book in the world could be right there- the book to change my life.  Yet I don't know which one it is so I am missing out!  I really don’t like reading a book I don't love because it feels like wasted time- and what’s worse its wasted time that is my fault because I made the decision of what to do with that time.  I can deal with wasted time because of unforeseen circumstances like a flat tire or waiting in a doctor’s office because that time is not up to me.  But when I do get free time- I want to make the most of it.  That’s why I think reader’s advisories are so important in libraries.  People want to be pointed in the right direction towards a good book to take some of the pressure off making that decision themselves.  I find that for many people (of course, not all) it leads to greater satisfaction.  As for me, my stack of ‘to-read’ books by my bed has all been recommended to me, and that works perfectly well for me!

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