Barry Schwartz

TAGS: Strategy, TED

Barry Schwartz

Too many choices can paralyze people into inaction. Barry Schwartz can free you from such imprisonment by teaching you to filter the amount of available choices in order to choose the one that will be the most satisfying. His work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. He is a fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science.



  • Nurturing Character

    The international financial crisis of the last two years has vividly illustrated how,when things go wrong, people are quick to reach for two tools to fix them: more and better rules, and smarter incentives. This talk will show that neither rules nor incentives are adequate substitutes for character. To induce people to do the right thing, we need to figure out how to get them to want to do the right thing. Rules and incentives may make things better in the short run. But they make things worse in the long run, by demoralizing activities and demoralizing the people who engage in the activities. The task before us—in finance, in education, in medicine, in law, and in virtually any occupation that involves human interaction—is to find ways to nurture character rather than destroying it.

  • Practical Wisdom

    Practical wisdom is the master virtue essential to solving problems of specificity, relevance, and conflict that inevitably arise whenever character strengths must be translated into action in concrete situations. Practical wisdom is becoming increasingly difficult to nurture and display in modern society, so that attention must be paid to reshaping social institutions to encourage the use of practical wisdom rather than inhibiting it.

  • The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More

    The logic behind the presumption that if some choice is good, more choice is better seems compelling. But in his ground breaking work, Barry Schwartz has found evidence that there can be too much of a good thing-that a point can be reached at which options paralyze rather than liberate. From consumer products, to Medicare prescription drug plans, media choices, travel options and even financial services, Schwartz' research has shown that when confronted with overwhelming choices the vast majority of us will either end up unhappy with the choice we make, or choose to not make a choice at all.

  • The Paradox of Choice: Medicare Prescription Drug Plans.

    The new Medicare prescription drug plan will save senior citizens billions of dollars, so why are so many of them afraid to sign up for it? There is now ample evidence that when you increase choice by offering more and more options, a point is reached at which paralysis rather than "freedom" is the result.

  • The Paradox of Choice: Public Policy

    A central aim of public policy in a democratic society should be improving the welfare of its citizens. Even when resources are plentiful, this is an extremely challenging task, because of the difficulty of determining what "welfare" consists in. Thus, collective welfare requires freedom, freedom entails choice, and choice is enhanced by wealth. The more choice people have, the better. But though the logic of choice may be compelling, there is growing evidence that the psycho logic is not. Indeed, there is growing evidence that for many people, increased choice produces decreases in satisfaction-sometimes even misery; that it sometimes produces paralysis, not liberation.

  • Choice and College

    Both Colleges and the students in them are afflicted with choice overload. Colleges torture themselves and millions of high school students trying to select the very best applicants. Students torture themselves trying to select the best colleges. And once they're in college, and offered almost no guidance about what to study, students are lost in an ocean of course possibilities. Students are less satisfied with their experiences than they should be, and completely uncertain about what their future should be. All of this misery is produced in the name of "freedom" and "excellence." It is wasteful of time and energy and it can and should be fixed.

  • Choice and Child Rearing

    Have you ever heard anyone say "I only want what's 'good enough' for my child"? In this talk, Schwartz makes the case that "good enough" will produce happier kids and more relaxed parents than the quest for the elusive best.

  • Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing

    A reasoned yet urgent call to embrace and protect the essential, practical human quality that has been drummed out of our lives: wisdom. It's in our nature to want to succeed. It's also human nature to want to do right. But we've lost how to balance the two. How do we get it back? Practical Wisdom can help. "Practical wisdom" is the essential human quality that combines the fruits of our individual experiences with our empathy and intellect-an aim that Aristotle identified millennia ago. It's learning "the right way to do the right thing in a particular circumstance, with a particular person, at a particular time." But we have forgotten how to do this. In Practical Wisdom, Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe illuminate how to get back in touch with our wisdom: how to identify it, cultivate it, and enact it, and how to make ourselves healthier, wealthier, and wiser... MORE →

    Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

    In the spirit of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, a social critique of our obsession with choice, and how it contributes to anxiety, dissatisfaction and regret. This paperback includes a new P.S. section with author interviews, insights, features, suggested readings, and more... MORE →


  • TED Talk: Why Justice Isn't Enough
  • Psychology Today: Blog
  • Video: The Colbert Report
  • NY Times op-ed
  • @BarrySch: Follow Barry on Twitter