TedTalk: Barry Schwartz’ “The Paradox of Choice” (English 101 assignment)

Referring to the way Western society handles choices and decision-making, Barry Schwartz says, “And the question is…Is this good news, or bad news? And the answer is ‘yes.’ We all know what’s good about it, so I’m going to talk about what’s bad about it. All this choice has two effects, two negative effects on people. One effect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis rather than liberation.” Theoretically speaking, I believe that we as humans are influenced by the societies we live in—including our peers, authority figures, and idols. When Barry spoke on the issues arising in our Western society, it reminded me that not all of our choices are our own—even though it may seem as if they are. Not all of our decisions are made by our own accord. In my experience, most decisions we make are based on what society tells us to be true. Therefore, even our dreams and aspirations are not our own. We dream of being our own person, having the most unique personality, living our most luxurious or efficient lives, and so forth. But do we really ever account for our parents’ behaviors when we were children; our friends’ interests, based on the television shows they watch and their older siblings’ favorite activities; or even whether we’ve had a religious upbringing? It’s all relative to who we are. And who we are, when it dwindles down, are very alike in a lot more ways than not. We’re basically made up of other people’s beliefs, with a hint of our own personalities. Some are less vulnerable to change than others, but maybe that’s out of our control. It’s human nature to question our own existence, but what about when time ceases to exist? After all, time is a man-made concept, and after death, does it truly matter how much time we had in this life rather than the extent to which we went to enhance the quality of it? That quality is only enhanced by the things we experience and what we do with those experiences, which leads us back to the influences we have on each other. “Living” implies that we’ve touched others or influenced them with our experiences or quality of life. “Surviving” merely suggests we are going through the motions of our daily life without giving much intention to whose thoughts we’ve influenced. Are we all just one big paradox of a species?

TED Talk–Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choiceoriginallarge