The tyranny of choice: A cross-cultural investigation of maximizing-satisficing effects on well-being

Arne Roets, Barry Schwartz, Yanjun Guan

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The present research investigated the relationship between individual differences in maximizing versus satisficing (i.e., seeking to make the single best choice, rather than a choice that is merely good enough) and well-being, in interaction with the society in which an individual lives. Data from three distinct cultural groups (adults), drawn respectively from the U.S. (N=307), Western Europe (N=263), and China (N=218), were analyzed. The results showed that, in societies where choice is abundant (i.e., U.S. and Western Europe), maximizers reported less well-being than satisficers, and this difference was mediated by experienced regret. However, in the non-western society (China), maximizing was unrelated to well-being. Although in China maximizing was associated with more experiences of regret, regret had no substantial relationship to well-being. These patterns also emerged for the individual facets of the maximizing scale, although with a notable difference between the U.S. and Europe for the High Standards facet. It is argued that, in societies where abundant individual choice is highly valued and considered the ultimate route to personal happiness, maximizers' dissatisfaction and regret over imperfect choices is a detrimental factor in well-being, whereas it is a much less crucial determinant of well-being in societies that place less emphasis on choice as the way to happiness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-704
Number of pages16
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Volume7
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Choice
  • Cross-cultural
  • Maximizing
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics

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