Renowned Psychologist Visits UNO

Barry SchwartzInternationally renowned psychologist Barry Schwartz visits the University of New Orleans this week, where he will address the moral quandaries posed by infinite choice. Photo courtesy the Toqueville Project.

Internationally renowned psychologist Barry Schwartz visits the University of New Orleans this week, where he will address the quandaries posed by infinite choice as part of a new moral and political thought lecture series at the University.

Schwartz, who is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, will give a talk entitled "The Tyranny of Freedom: How Too Much Choice Can Make Us Miserable" at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7 in Room 140 of the Liberal Arts Building. The talk is free and open to the public and serves as the last talk of a new series of philosophical lectures brought this fall to UNO by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Chris Surprenant, founder and director of the Alexis de Tocqueville Project on Democractic Ideals and Institutions.

Schwartz is the author of six books and frequently publishes editorials in The New York Times applying his research in psychology to current events. In his talk at UNO, Schwartz will tackle one of the great mysteries of modern life: Why is it that societies of great abundance — where individuals are offered more freedom and choice (personal, professional, material) than ever before — are now witnessing a near-epidemic of depression? Conventional wisdom tells us that greater choice is for the greater good, but Schwartz argues the opposite: He makes a compelling case that the abundance of choice in today's western world is actually making us miserable.

Infinite choice is paralyzing, Schwartz argues, and exhausting to the human psyche. It leads us to set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them and blame our failures entirely on ourselves. His relatable examples, from consumer products (jeans, TVs, salad dressings) to lifestyle choices (where to live, what job to take, who and when to marry), underscore this central point: Too much choice undermines happiness.

This talk is part of the Tocqueville Project at UNO's Lectures on Liberty Series. Free public parking is available in the lot on Founders Road. For more information, including a campus map identifying the location of this lot and the Liberal Arts Building, visit the "Events" page on the Tocqueville Project's website: www.tocquevilleproject.org.