making decisions

Making Decisions and the Paradox of Choice

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English lesson making decisions

In this lesson we’re going to talk about making decisions; more specifically we will discuss how long you take to make a decision, so let’s start by asking a few questions:

1. When you bought your mobile phone, how long did it take you to decide which one to get?

2. When you are in a restaurant, how long does it take you to decide what to eat?

3. When you are going on vacation, how long does it take you to book a hotel?

The answers to these questions will go some way to working out whether you are a satisficer or a maximiser.

Satisficer or Maximizer?

Satisficers are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be very high; but as soon as they find the car, the hotel, or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied.

So, a satisficer will choose a product or service once their criteria has been met. Taking the hotel question, if you want a hotel that is in the center of London, has three stars, and is under $200 a night, when you find a hotel that fulfills your requirements, you book it without doing further research.

Maximizers want to make the optimal decision. So even if they see a bicycle or a photographer that would seem to meet their requirements, they can’t make a decision until after they’ve examined every option, so they know they’re making the best possible choice…

Using the hotel example again, a maximizer will look at all the possible hotels that match their requirements before booking. A maximizer always wants to make the best choice.

Who do you think is happier? Well, here is one opinion:

In a fascinating book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers must spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they are, in fact, making the best choice.

Criteria: what we base our decision on (for example, when talking about hotels, 4 stars, clean, in the centre).
Mediocrity: the quality of being mediocre – moderate, average.
Optimal: most desirable.
Examine: look at in depth

(taken from this article):

Discussion

Sometimes I’m a maximizer and sometimes a satisficer; it depends on the situation. In restaurants I don’t take a long time at all to decide what to have. I take a quick look at the menu and just get what I’m in the mood for.

But, when I buy electronics, I usually take a long time to decide what to buy. I do a lot of research, read the reviews, and look for the best possible price. For example, I bought some equipment to make my Youtube videos recently and took quite a long time researching the different options available.

Regarding who is happier, I understand what Barry Schwartz is saying: I always have this bad feeling after doing a lot of research when buying something. I like it when I can quickly make a decision and move on and do something else.

Sometimes, if you take a long time deciding, you get anxious and think, “Should I have bought that?”

So, the question for this lesson is: are you a satisficer or a maximizer?

Leave your comments below.

Exercise

Complete the sentences from the text in this lesson:

Questions

1. How long does it _______ you to make a decision?

2. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for __________.

3. Maximizers want to make the _________ decision.

4. They can’t make a decision until after they’ve __________ every option.

5. Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be __________ than maximizers.

6. I do a lot of research, read the __________ and look for the best possible price.

7. I always have this bad __________ after doing a lot of research when I buying something.

8. Sometimes, if you take a long time deciding, you get anxious and think, “Should I have __________ this?”

Answers

1. take

2. mediocrity

3. optimal

4. examined

5. happier

6. reviews

7. feeling

8. bought

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