The Paradox of Choice

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Published In

Positive Psychology In Practice: Promoting Human Flourishing In Work, Health, Education, And Everyday Life


Choice is what enables each person to pursue precisely those objects and activities that best satisfy his or her own preferences within the limits of his or her resources. This chapter argues that choice, and with it freedom, autonomy, and self-determination, can become excessive, and that when that happens, freedom can be experienced as a kind of misery-inducing tyranny. Though one cannot be free without choice, it is arguable that choice-induced paralysis is a sign of diminished rather than enhanced freedom. Though policy initiatives can operate to minimize the negative effects of choice overload, they contain the danger that they will simultaneously undermine the positive effects of freedom of choice. The reason people can say anything and be understood is that they cannot say anything in any way they want. It is linguistic constraint, in the form of these rules, that makes linguistic freedom possible.



Published By

John Wiley & Sons


S. Joseph

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