There has been a recent attempt in behavioral economics/psychology to modify the neoclassical economic assumption that decision makers' utility depends on only the content of outcomes with indifference toward factors such as how many or which alternative choices are confronted, in favor of the notion that deciding more often and/or over richer opportunity sets leaves the decider worse off. Barry Schwartz in his book The Paradox of Choice relates this to the dichotomy of maximizing VS satisficing, and seems to waver between implying that this calls for individuals choosing "dumber" heuristics, and implying that this is too difficult and external collective means of pruning individuals' opportunity sets are both required and justified. He doesn't come off as ignorant that being unfree often leads to low utility, but prescribes a low optimum level of choice after which it is purported to become too much of a good thing. One example is his "two options is my limit" rule. He also advocates for decisions being irrevocable where possible.

The first article I found estimating the number of Chess players in the world put it at 800 million. Another said strategy games generated $16.3 billion in 2022, making it the second most lucrative genre, and as Chess is free, there's probably not much correlation between these statistics. Regardless of whether the specific numbers are accurate, there seems to be a massive demand for voluntarily ascending into what are often very complex networks of decision prompts, and often just for intrinsic pleasure of "having fun."

How does the paradox of choice school of thought account for the huge quantity of people who intentionally and repeatedly place themselves in situations of extremely dense and multifaceted decision making, for the sole reason that they directly gain utility from being in such environments? Is there another trend in psychology and/or behavioral economics which studies the conditions in which very rich ecosystems of choice increase decision makers' utility, relative to the neoclassical assumption of neutrality?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have any evidence that there are "defenders of the paradox of choice" that believe this is some inviolable law that applies in every circumstance? I believe the original book is quite a bit more narrow than that; I don't expect anyone would expect to mount a defense of the issue you raise. Decision making within a game is quite a different sort of thing from what the book is about. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 9 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I would describe the book as having a tendency to focus on consumer choice, but the claims and arguments it presents do not seem to be restricted in scope. I'd locate the discourse on limited attention as broadly in the same category of purporting to show that increasing choice causes decreased utility (at least in modern societies argued to contain "too much" choice). If I'm overstating the case, then perhaps drawing lines around the conditions under which the paradox is supposed to hold could be the basis of an answer. $\endgroup$
    – user10478
    Commented Jul 9 at 21:41


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