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Science News

The Paradox of Choice 537

Posted by Hemos
from the so-many-options dept.
sproketboy writes "Psychology professor Barry Schwartz has written a book which is a must read by those wanting to get Linux on the Desktop. Dr. Schwartz examines the problem of too much choice in our society. Maybe Microsoft has it right after all? Here's a video interview with Dr. Schwartz, a review of the book from the New Yorker and more info from PBS." Of course, the choice issue applies to far more than desktop computers, but is still instructive in that area. Thanks to Stefan Hudson for a SciAm story that has more information.
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The Paradox of Choice

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  • I choose (Score:0, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:03AM (#8703759)
    To post first. How Paridoxical!
  • by IronTek (153138) * on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:06AM (#8703783) Homepage
    This would have been an informed post, but there was a link to a video of the guy discussing the paradox of choice, a link to the article about the book, and a link to an interview with the guy in the video who wrote the book that the article was about... ...so I couldn't decide.
  • by QEDog (610238) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:06AM (#8703791)
    Should I post in this story or in the other stories? What to do? what to do? argh! I'm going crazy!!!
  • by Chris_Stankowitz (612232) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:07AM (#8703799)
    Thats like saying ther is such a thing as getting laid too much.

    Linux (and Pizza) is like a Blowjob, no matter how bad it is, its still pretty good!

  • annoying... (Score:5, Funny)

    by spangineer (764167) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:08AM (#8703815) Homepage
    Tons of choices can be annoying - going to a restaurant and being forced to select from a huge list of foods can be overwhelming. Usually, all I end up doing is finding one thing I like and then ordering that all the time, without checking out other stuff. It's too much of a hassle to try out every choice that exists in the world.

    Then again, if we didn't have as many choices, I might not be able to find one thing I like in the first place, and thus probably wouldn't go back to eat there - I'll choose to go somewhere else.

    But if that choice was taken away, I'd have to eat something I didn't particularly like, which never killed anyone.

    Morale of the story? Having too many choices is the real reason I'm a picky eater.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:11AM (#8703851)
    Only on slashdot would someone compare linux to a blowjob.

    Get a life!

  • by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear@pacbe l l .net> on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:13AM (#8703874) Homepage
    And what, Macs are like getting laid? What does that make Microsoft?
  • by Joe Tie. (567096) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:18AM (#8703946)
    Q: Choice is bad? A: Yes Q: Can anyone understand the issues? A: Think of how many letters there are in one word. Now multiply that by how many words are in a page, and then the book. Then by how many books there are. That's so much information! You shouldn't even try. Q: I like choice A: No you don't. You'd be happier if you didn't have them. Q: No, really, I like choice A: Well, here's some proof for you. People with cancer like having doctors treat them instead of creating their own chemo routines. Do you think you're better than people with cancer or something! THE END
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:19AM (#8703965)
    No, no... Macs get you laid. With Microsoft, you're simply fucked.
  • by stateofmind (756903) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:20AM (#8703990)
    It's just like when I'm trying to find some good porn, I've overwhelmed!

    So many fetishes, so little kleenex.

    Josh
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:21AM (#8703999)
    Psychology professor Barry "FUD" Schwartz receives $50 million from a mysterious donor...
  • Re:LotD (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:25AM (#8704046)
    Linus on the Desktop...A problem?

    If Linus was sitting on my desktop, it would be pretty hard for me to work.
  • by RPoet (20693) on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:28AM (#8704083) Journal
    When you go to the grocery, do you ask for 'meat', or do you specify species and cut?

    What the hell is this "meat"? Just give me a store full of gray boxes labelled "Food", damnit!
  • by nacturation (646836) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `noitarutcan'> on Monday March 29, 2004 @11:31AM (#8704124) Journal
    I take it you've never eaten at the HP cafe?

    Lunch, the HP Way

    by Stephen Harrison and Noel Magee

    This is the story of a different kind. No melting CPU's, no screaming disc drives, just the kind of psychological torture that scars a man for life.

    I had a 9:00 meeting with my sales rep. I needed to buy an entire new series 70, the works. He said it'd take about an hour. Three hours later, we'd barely got the datacomm hardware down on paper, so he invited me downstairs for lunch.

    This was my first experience in an HP cafeteria. Above the service counter was a menu which began...

    MMU's (Main Menu Units)

    0001A Burger. Includes sesame-seed bun.
    Must order comdiments 00110A separately
    001 Deletes seeds.
    002 Expands burger to two patties.

    00020A Double cheeseburger, preconfigured. Includes cheese,
    bun and condiments.
    001 Add-on bacon.
    002 Delete second patty.
    003 Replaces second patty with extra cheese.

    00021A Burger Upgrade to Double Cheeseburger
    001 From Single Burger.
    002 From Double Burger.
    003 Return credit for bun.

    00220A Burger Bundle. Includes 00010A, 00210A and 00310A
    001 Substitute root beer 00311A for cola 00310A.


    My eyes glazed over. I asked for a burger and a root beer. The waitress looked at me like I was an alien.

    "How would you like to order that, sir?"

    "Quickly, if possible. Can't I just order a sandwich and a drink?"

    "No sir. All our service is menu driven. Now what would you like?"

    I scanned the menu. "How big is the 00010 burger?"

    "The patty is rated at eight bites."

    "Well, how about the rest of it?"

    "I dont have the specs on that, sir, but I think it's a bit more."

    "Eight bites is too small. Give me the Double Burger Upgrade."

    My sales rep interrupted. "No, you want the Single Burger option 002 'expands burger to two patties'. The double burger upgrade would give you two burgers.

    "But you could get return credit on the extra bun," the waitress chimed in, trying to be helpful, "although it isn't documented."

    I looked around to see if anybody was staring at me. There was a couple in line behind us. I recognized one of them, a guy who merely mowed me down in the parking lot with his cherry-red '62 Vette. He was talking to some woman who was waving her arms around and looking very excited.

    "What if... we marketed the bacon cheeseburger with the vegetable option and without the burger and cheese? It'd be a BLT!"

    The woman charged off in the direction of the telephone, running steeplechases over tables and chairs. My waitress tried to get my attention again. "Have you decided, sir?"

    "Yeah, give me the double burger- excuse me, I mean the 00020A with the option 001. I want everything on it." She put me down for the Condiment Expansion Kit, which included mayonnaise, mustard and pickles with a option to substitute relish.

    "Ketchup." I hated to ask. "I want ketchup on that, too."

    "That's not a condiment, sir, it's a Tomato Product." My sales rep butted in again. "That's not a supported configuration."

    "What now?" I kept my voice steady.

    "Too juicy. The bun can't handle it."

    "Look. Forget the ketchup, just put some lettuce and tomatoes on it."

    The waitress backed away from the counter. "I'm sorry, sir, but that's not supported either, the bun can take it but the burger won't fit in the box. The sales rep defended himself. "Just not at first release." "It is being beta-tested, sir."

    I checked the overhead screen. Fries, number 000210A, option 110. French followed by option 120, English. "What the hell are English Fries?" I turned to the sales rep. "Chips they call them. We sell a lot of them."

    I gave up. "OK, OK just give me a plain vanilla Burger Bundle." The confused the waitress profoundly. "Sir, Vanilla as an option is configured
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:06PM (#8704494)
    Just give me a store full of gray boxes labelled "Food", damnit!

    The boxes are blue and yellow, not gray. They say 'Kraft Dinner' on the front.
  • by Guardian452 (761937) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:06PM (#8704499)
    This concept was driven home for me in elementary school with the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. I could NOT read one of those without jamming my fingers between pages to mark interesting divergences in case my choice didn't work out! It drove me nuts to think that I might be missing out on something interesting somewhere else.

    "Do you want to repair the damaged robot? Turn to p. 42"
    "Or you want to flee with the princess? Turn to p.22"

    Choices? Bah! I just gave up and went with the old "one narrative only" books. Much more satisfying.
  • by vwjeff (709903) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:07PM (#8704512)
    As George Carlin once said, "In this country you have the freedom to make choices. Would you like paper or plastic?"
  • by The Queen (56621) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:08PM (#8704520) Homepage
    You're welcome. And that's Ma'am. ;-)

    Referring to another reply, yes, it is VERY painful to know that Swiffer is using "Whip it" to sell to housewives. I only hope it's some sort of sick, jocko-homo joke by the spudboys on all of us...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:15PM (#8704597)
    why?

    he had me at hello.
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:15PM (#8704601) Journal
    When you go to the grocery, do you ask for 'meat', or do you specify species and cut?

    I used to ask for "human, lean breast" but now they just call the cops when they see me coming. :-(

    I don't get no respect.

  • by Black Mage Balthazar (708812) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:18PM (#8705405)
    Keanu "Look At Me Act" Reeves to The "Look I Know Latin" Architect: "The problem is choice."
  • by statusbar (314703) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @02:49PM (#8706641) Homepage Journal
    How long you take to make a decision on something should reflect how long it's going to affect your life.

    Why didn't anyone tell me that before I decided to get married? It was hell until I got divorced.

    --jeff++

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @03:04PM (#8706822)
    > How many models of cars that do things differently from every other model of car?
    Hmm, lets see... Regular, deisal, hybrid, eletric, leaded additive required, hydrogen, yup looks identical there. Mixing and matching fuels would never kill an engine. They all reload their power systems the same way.

    >If I buy a Ford, I don't need to take training because my last car was a Pontiac.
    Thats right, because both Ford and Pontiac have standardized on automatic transmission so there is only one way to operate the car and I don't have to learn more than one way.

    >Hell, even the order of the gears on an automatic are the same (P R N D 1 2 3).
    Darn right. Absolutely. All of them have low 3, and no automatic has more than one "drive" option like overdrive to choose from. Exactly the same.

    >Contrast that with Linux distros where some applications are present, and some are not.
    Yep, and all cars have A/C, power windows, cruze control. Yep, always there.

    >Some applications are placed here, and some are placed there.
    >(Your quote above) Sure, the placement of the A/C or cruise controls are a little different...
    Good thing these concepts you gave don't contradict each other in your argument.

    >Some will work with hardware better than others.
    Isn't that anoying. Every moron knows that with cars you can replace a door on any 98 Chevy with a 2002 Ford in five minutes. They are all built to exactly the same dimensions and wireing.

    >THIS is why Windows is winning the desktop day in and day out. It has nothing to do with monopolies or political bullying.
    Preach it brother. Everyone knows that Apple isn't king because it offered ten times the amount of choices that Windows did.

    >...create a single, standard, default desktop that is consistent across all distros.
    Yes, its pathetic how the various companies can't sit down and agree to a single unified desktop regardless if they like the final decision or not. After all, look how Microsoft gave up its vision of a desktop just to create a standard with Apple.

    >For those contemplating such flames...get a clue. No one is suggesting locking anyone into a "one size fits all soylent world" ... They're suggesting giving a consistent base to build on.
    Thats right. And your statements in no way assume that only Microsoft could be that base. You are very willing to accept anything, includeing any given Linux distribution, so long as everyone always starts wiuth it.

    Good argument. I support you all the way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @04:21PM (#8707692)
    When I was a kid, we had three brands of cereal, one school, few choices for a profession, little choice for clothes, and only one choice for religion and daaaaaagnabit, we loved it!

    A Theory of Choice involving Maximizers and Satisficers? It's hard to believe that physicists used to make fun of String Theory? :)
  • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Monday March 29, 2004 @06:17PM (#8708878) Journal
    --- and real power returns to the god-like system administrator of old

    When one of my end users calls and says "Why can't I...", I take great satisfaction in saying "Because you can't, have a nice day." God-like system administrators aren't so bad...as long as I'm one of them.
  • by bfg9000 (726447) on Monday March 29, 2004 @08:23PM (#8709874) Homepage Journal
    All of the self-made rich people I know are pretty sharp. If you can provide a pointer to any research showing a reverse correlation, I'd be fascinated to see it.

    Your [britneyspears.com]
    wish [georgewbush.com]
    is [ashton-kutcher.net]
    my [jessicasimpson.com]
    command [tori-spelling.com].

    Looking at this list, it's a bit blonde-heavy. It seems further research into this strange pattern formation is required.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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