Burden of choice

Barry Schwartz’s book became a page-turner for me when he began discussing a survey of preferences in medical care. The majority of nonpatients said they would want to be in charge of their treatment if they were to get cancer, he reported. But most of those who actually had cancer wanted their doctors to take over.

“What looks attractive in prospect doesn’t always look so good in practice. In making a choice that could mean the difference between life and death, figuring out which choice to make becomes a grave burden,” Schwartz states. Simply put, the paradox is that while having some choice is necessary and healthy, too much choice—too many options, too many decision points—is debilitating.


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