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Barry Schwartz is an American psychologist, professor, author, speaker and researcher. Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. Schwartz’s research addresses morality, decision-making and the inter-relationships between science and society. Barry Schwartz studies the link between economics and psychology, offering startling insights into modern life. Barry has millions of views of his Ted talks online.
I recently read his 2004 global best seller ‘The Paradox of Choice’ and was impacted by it greatly. So much of the research covered resonated with me and it was one of those reads that you can’t put down. What’s more interesting is that book is even more relevant today than it was 15 years ago when released. So, naturally I was delighted when Barry accepted the invitation to come on to the podcast and talk about his career, research, and latest work.
If you want to learn more about Barry and his work, I’ve provided links to his work at the end of the show notes.
To further entice you, here is a summary of what we covered.
•Which of the roles Barry plays is most interesting to him
•A life changing moment – taking a sabbatical in the early 1990s at Harvard to learn economics and evolutionary biology
•During this time, Barry started to write a personal narrative and found this process fascinating and it was the beginning of a book which ended up being a book (the Battle for Human Nature)
•Where did the plan to be a psychologist come from?
•Growing up in New York wanting to be a Baseball player, then a journalist
•Falling into his passion and the field of psychology by luck rather than design!
•BF Skinner’s field of psychology was the area of interest to Barry first – the psychology of learning field – How learning happens?
•Writing a text book on the psychology of learning
•Humans as creatures where everything we do is transactional
•Developing good arguments against BF Skinners theory
•What drives & motivates Barry
•Too much emphasis in psychology about collecting new empirical facts
•More interested in understanding these facts and the story of these together
•Using other’s research and tell a story that brings new understanding
•Barry’s core values
•The value of following your nose & not having a grand plan
•The way the workplace has evolved makes it harder for people to find work they have meaning in
•What is working for meaning now so mainstream and popular?
oLiving in good times but all it takes a major economic downturn and this can change things – this is a very unstable attitude
oThe Feminisation of the workplace – Women care more than men, and as Women form a larger % of the workforce, they demand that work matter!
•Emotional Intelligence – a slogan & how this impacts Barry’s work – when we want people to do the right thing – we rely on tools – sticks or carrots – instead of a desire to do the right thing because it’s the right thing!
•The Paradox of Choice – the relevance of the book still 15 years on
•Examples of how Netflix, Walmart and Amazon not fully learning the lesson
•Why are Netflix not taking on the advice in the book?
•People are acting against their own interests as they don’t understand the impacts
•The ability to rearrange a store online based on the choice
•Putting a label on the challenges people had with decision making
•Barry’s own key learnings from writing the book
oThe relation between Freedom & Choice
oMaximiser v Satisficers – so I started to reflect on a lot during reading
•Satisficing is not settling – it’s a standard and a choice to move forward
•Single most important thing – Good enough is almost always good enough!
•When to say good enough v seeking perfection?
•How age and good enough are linked
•Locus of Control & Freedom – how this ties into the decision making process
•How to select candidates for Ivy leagues schools? – make it a lottery?
•Nobody is willing to accept that important things in life happens by chance!
•The role of Luck in important things in life!!!!
•Current work & plans on the future – when all you have got is two kinds of jeans to choose from?
•Book Recommendations impactful on Barry?
oThe Economist Hour – Benjamin Applebaum – when the world started listening to economists and taking them seriously?
oRule Makes Rule Breakers – Michelle Gelfan
•One Minute Monday from Barry
oWhispering that Good Enough is good enough
oHow can I make meaning, not find meaning!!
Link to the Barry’s books
•Why We Work, Simon & Schuster/TED, 2015. (ISBN 9781476784861)
•The Paradox of Choice – https://amzn.to/2qeNS5p
•Psychology of Learning and Behavior, with Edward Wasserman and Steven Robbins
•The Costs of Living: How Market Freedom Erodes the Best Things in Life, Xlibris Corporation, 2001. (ISBN 0-7388-5251-1)
•Learning and Memory, with Daniel Reisberg
•The Battle for Human Nature: Science, Morality and Modern Life
•Behaviorism, Science, and Human Nature, with Hugh Lacey, W. W. Norton & Company, 1983. (ISBN 0-393-01585-8)
•Practical Wisdom, with Kenneth Sharpe, Riverhead, 2010, (ISBN 978-1594487835)