The one-sentence summary

The more choice we have, the less we actually make decisions.


  • It is subtitled Why more is less, and explains how the culture of abundance robs us of satisfaction. The author argues that we would be better off if we embraced voluntary constraints and sought what was ‘good enough’ instead of seeking the best. To reduce stress, we should lower our expectations, make our decisions non-reversible and pay less attention to what others are doing
  • Negative liberty is freedom from (constraint) and positive liberty is freedom to (do what we want)
  • The more choice we have, the less we actually make decisions – the tyranny of small decisions paralyses us
  • Choices are based on expected and remembered utility – how people felt when the experience was at its peak (best or worst) and at the end. The psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls this the peak-end rule
  • Kahneman & Tversky, revered behavioural economists, defined the availability heuristic, in which people give undue weight to some types of information in relation to others, leading to irrational decisions
  • Prospect theory suggests that evaluations are relative to a baseline – a hedonic zero point that determines whether something appears ‘better’ or ‘worse’


  • Maximizers consider every possibility, are always wondering what the other options are, and are never satisfied. Too much choice increases their stress.
  • Perfectionists set high standards they don’t expect to meet, but maximizers do expect to meet them, and are disappointed when they don’t
  • Satisficers are happy with ‘good enough’ and have few regrets
  • Learned helplessness assumes that it won’t work so there’s no point trying
  • Opportunity costs are missing the opportunities afforded by a different option
  • If we want to cope better with choice we need to choose when to choose, be a chooser not a picker, satisfice more and maximize less, think about the opportunity costs of opportunity costs, make decisions non-reversible, practice an attitude of gratitude, regret less, anticipate adaptation, control expectations, curtail social comparison, and learn to love constraints.


  • This is a highly readable and thought-provoking book, and should be read by anyone with an interest in behavioural economics