in-class presentation "How To Choose!!"

I did a small in-class presentation today. It was inspired by a segment of The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. The guest was Barry Shwarts, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and author of the book, The Paradox of Choice.

************* the script of the presentation***********
Hello, everyone!

Today, I’d like to talk about the increasing number of choices in the modern world we are living in. And also whether the diversity is good or not for us to have a good quality of life. It comes from a segment of a radio program in the U.S. The host talked about it with the guest, who is a professor of psychology and author of a book, The Paradox of Choice.

Well, having choices is supposed to be a good thing. We tend to think the more we have, the more convenient our lives become. But have you thought that too many choices can be bad for your life? Have you ever been overwhelmed by choice?

In today’s world, we have so many choices when we look for whatever we want. If you subscribe to a cable television system, you may have hundreds of channels to choose to watch, or when you buy a gift for your friend, you can think of dozens of shops where you can find a certain level of products.

On the segment, a listener called in and said she had lived in Spain for a year, from mid 87 untill mid 88. At that time, she had only two TV channels to watch. So her life was much more simple.

Later, she came back to the United States. And now, she pointed out, we see people sitting on the train on their way home, and they concentrate on just highlighting the TV guides, where they have over 500 channels on cable television. She wondered, that if the television itself is not a waste of time, then the time highlighting the TV guide is even a waste of time!

Another listener emailed and asked if there are some people who are more overwhelmed by choice but there are others who are not. He shared his story that he himself takes five minutes just to choose a snack from a vending machine, but his brother has no trouble at all making the choice.

The guest answered the listener was right. According to their research, there are some people who are more overwhelmed than others. And he pointed out if you are trying to find the best in the modern world, you’d meet so many choices that can paralyze you.

In his book, he offered the idea that instead of trying to maximize a choice, we should aim to “satisfise”. It’s a special word invented by some doctor a half century ago. He explained the idea that we should learn that “good enough” is almost always good enough. You don’t need to find “the best”. You don’t need to find the best restaurant, the best movie, the best vacation, the best job, the best apartment, and even the best investment. What you need to find is one of those things that’s good enough. You choose it and stop worrying.

When the possibility is small, when you have only a few choices, you could check them all out. But it’s just impossible in the modern world where you have so many choices. So, you can have more precious time by trying to find just “good enough”.

Another feature that may help us not to be overwhelmed in the sea of information is seen in some areas, like Amazon, the online bookstore. Once you buy something on Amazon, they suggest other items to buy based on your past buying. The guest said, it’s like having an intelligent librarian who advises you what to buy. The librarian would say, “if you are interested in this book, then you might be interested in these books as well.” like that. That’s one of the good ways to handle the overwhelming number of choices.

So, that’s what they were talking about on the radio.

Then, I’d like to you to discuss several things.

1. When you buy something new, what kind of process would you go through? Do you go to the Internet to do research about it? Or do you rather go to the shop straight away and ask the sales clerk? Please share your way with us.

2. Have you suffered from what some call the anxiety of choice? Have you been overwhelmed by choice?

3. Do you think just having more choices is good for us?

4. In what area, do you think we need more choices? And in what area, do you suggest we don’t need any more choices?
(after discussion)

To my conclusion, I think we have to keep in mind that time we are given is limited, so sometimes, you have to compromise by choosing the good-enough and should understand that it’s almost impossible for us to find the best in the current world.

+++new words and expressions+++
overwhelm = if an emotion, event, or problem overwhelms you, you are very affected by it and you do not know what to do, how to react etc.

better off = richer than you were before
eg --- Are you better off than you were four years ago?

paralyze = to make sb unable to feel or move all or part of their body
eg ---- She stood there, paralyzed with fear.


To do this, I recorded the segment, listened to it several times, and tried to type out all the words. I couldn't type out every word, but it was very interesting time to do!! I found many many expressions which I can use in daily life!

My classmate is a university student so he always goes to the store with his father when he buys something new. He trusts his dad as a good adviser.

As for me, when we buy something new, we usually go to a price comparison website, get the information of how much is the lowest price, read the users' comments carefully, and then go to the company's site to read the item's spec . After the surfing, finally we go to the shop, see the item, touch it, use it, ask the sales clerk several questions and absolutely negotiate the price!

I think we always enjoy the process itself of buying things like playing games. So, when we get the new one, it's already familiar for us! However, we don't like spending too much time as well. So, we buy things sometimes instinctively or sometimes after doing research for a long time when we think it's fun to do!

What about you?




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