Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Maximizer versus Satisficer

I recently finished the book, The Paradox of Choice: why more is less by Barry Schwartz. Although not an eye-opening book per se, it did give me a lot of food for thought in how I function with making choices. Normally, you'd think that having so many choices would be a great thing. It is to an extent, but it can get hairy quickly. This comes when decision making becomes detrimental to our psyche and health. That, in essence, is the paradox of choice. I have a lot more thoughts about everyday paradoxes, but that'll be left for another post.

I want to focus on Maximization. Below is a cartoon about maximizers.

What is a maximizer? A maximizer is one who only seeks and accepts the best. They are the people who check out all the options before making any choice. They often take a long time before making a choice and will compare purchase decisions to choices others have made.

Even when they have made a choice, they worry that that was not the right option or may feel less satisfied and less positive with the choice they have made. They may also experience regret after a purchase or choice. Maximizers also don't cope with negative events well, take longer to recover from these events, and will ruminate about their experiences.

Many would think being a maximizer would be a good thing, but it can pay a price. A number of problems can occur with those who are maximizers, including feeling less happy, more regret, being more perfectionistic, and feeling an overload of choices. In the book, Sachwartz outlines a few studies that represented this.

Then there are individuals who are what Schwartz calls Satisificers. They are people who do check out options but settle for good enough or excellent but not necessarily the best. They don't worry about the choice they have made or that there might have been something better.

Compared with maximizers, satisficers take less time comparing and purchasing products. They do not seem to compare their decisions as much to others. They usually feel more positive about their choices and experience less regret than their counterparts.

Schwartz in general says how we should all strive to become more satisficers. However, he also realizes that it's also about acceptance too. For many people, they are "domain specific" of when they will be a maximizer or a satisficer. And that's really okay. It's when it becomes a point of real hindrance that there is a problem and it needs to be worked on.

Personally, for me, I was taught to always want the best out of life, that being number one, going to the best college, etc. was important. None of those things happened, and it left me feeling like I was "settling" for second best, second rate, that it wasn't enough, that
I wasn't enough. I still have a really hard time with choices. I am positive I suffer from the overloading of choices phenomenon which has left me at a standstill at times. It's something I am working on and trying to realize that sometimes the best isn't all it's cut out to be. I know and have accepted that there will be certain things in life that I will always be a maximizer, but over the years, I have lessened it to a degree, especially with food/household items. I think a large part of that was financial to be honest, but also realizing that even those things that may have been second rate to me, I've come to actually just be satisfied with.

Here's a Maximization Test reprinted in the book,
The Paradox of Choice courtesy via APA. Where do you fall on the Maximization Scale?

Maximization Scale
Ratings are from 1 (completely disagree) to 7 (completely agree) Scores can range from 13 to 91. A score of 65 or higher is on the maximization side. A score of 30 or lower is on the satisficing side.

1. Whenever I'm faced with a choice, I try to imagine what all the other possibilities are, even ones that aren't
present at the moment.
2. No matter how satisfied I am with my job, it's only right for me to be on the lookout for better opportunities.
3. When I am in the car listening to the radio, I often check other stations to see if something better is playing,
even if I am relatively satisfied with what I'm listening to.
4. When I watch tv, I channel surf, often scanning through the available options even while attempting to watch
one program.
5. I treat relationships like clothing; I expect to try a lot on before finding the perfect fit.
6. I often find it difficult to shop for a gift for a friend.
7. Renting videos is really difficult. I'm alway struggling to pick the best one.
8. When shopping, I have a hard time finding clothing that I really love.
9. I'm a big fan of lists that attempt to rank things (the best movies, the best singers, the best athletes, the best
novels, etc)
10. I find writing is very difficult, even if it's just writing a letter to a friend, because it's so hard to word things just
right. I often do several drafts of even simple things.
11. No matter what I do, I have the highest standards for myself.
12. I never settle for second best.
13. I often fantasize about living in ways that are quite different from my actual life.


kb said...


I have heard a lot about the idea of "good enough" in terms of boys' versus girls' learning styles (I'm a teacher, so there you go). For me, what my T. is actually trying to push, is to challenge myself to want the best for myself because I am so scared of disappointment that I often "settle", I make that pragmatic choice. YET... In terms of work and other expectations for myself, I do demand excellence and I believe that I can always do more or do better. So, I guess that is the maximizer component?
As far as the quiz, I scored a 40. I think the questions didn't push my buttons though!
- Kristina

Tiptoe said...

Kristina, yes, the maximizing component is there towards work for you but not necessarily in other areas of your life. I think what your T. may be wanting is for you to risk and reach your best potential but to feel satisfied with it too. I'm wondering what disappointment "feels" like to you?

The other thing is that your example also shows how maximizing is "domain specific" which it is for so many of us.

zandria said...

I'm feeling you -- having options is great, but having too many sometimes feels like more of a liability than having NO options. We'd all like our jobs a lot better if we weren't constantly thinking about the possibility of a different workplace! :)

Tiptoe said...

Zan, yes, totally agree. Options can really drown you sometimes, and the more you have, then the risks can go up.

http://www.thisgreatadventure.com/ said...

The really hard part of this is that many people have been taught that life must have a "meaning" ... the universe doesn't really care what you do ... but that is too hard for most people to bare so we create a "life purpose" ... mainly it is a learned thing from our elders.

It's helped humanity understand more about our environment and become dominant. We are exceptional compared to any other known species but that is both a blessing and a curse.

It is only when we can accept our true place in the universe ... and stop taking ourselves so seriously ... we see that life is what you make it - there are no right or wrong choices .. just the ones we make.

We "fill" our time - with one thing or another - so you do your thing I'll do mine - I'm okay and I hope you are too.

I admit it doesn't sound as great as what your parents taught you about, hard work, success and glory but I don't kid myself about how important I am either.

Mozart died broke and unhappy ... so what if his music outlasted him .. it didn't help him live a long and happy life.

I guess that makes me a satisficer then.


Tiptoe said...

Andy, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Being a satisficer is a good thing. I think it probably makes life easier ultimately. There is just much less worry about every decision you make.

Much luck to you.

Sngforgiven@gmail.com said...

Incredible! I just so happen to come across your blog, and was very curious when I saw the word Maximizer. I had never heard that word before. But I decided to take that Maximizer Scale and was astounded that all 13 of those things are exactly how I am! Not just a little, but a lot! It made me very happy because I felt that it helped me define more of who I am. :)

Tiptoe said...

Sngforgiven, glad you came across my blog and found that the maximizer definition helped you.

I'm not sure what happened to the cartoon, so I'll have to see if I can get the image back up.

viagra online said...

We have always chose. Everyday. but I think that hunch is the best thing about it. when you left everything to a hunch. It can work fine