The Maximizer Quiz

What is your decision-making style? Are you what’s called a maximizer or a satisficer? Answer these few questions YES or NO:

Items from the Maximization Scale
(These are 7 of 13 total questions on the Maximization Scale by Schwartz et al., 2002 – reference is in the comment section)

1) When I watch TV, I channel surf, often scanning through the
available options even while attempting to watch one

2) When I am in the car listening to the radio, I often check other
stations to see if something better is playing, even if I’m
relatively satisfied with what I’m listening to.

3) No matter how satisfied I am with my job, it’s only right for
me to be on the lookout for better opportunities.

4) I often find it difficult to shop for a gift for a friend.

5) When shopping, I have a hard time finding clothing that I
really love.

6) No matter what I do, I have the highest standards for myself.

7) I never settle for second best.

Are YOU a Maximizer?

Now count up how many Yes’s you have. If you have 6 or 7 Yes’s, you are likely to be a maximizer. If you have 1 or 2 Yes’s, you are likely to be a satisficer. In between, you have some maximizer tendencies.

Maximizers look for the one best version of something – the best meal at a restaurant, the perfect movie night, the best school, the best gift, etc. Satisficers look for something that is good enough to meet their general criteria: a good meal, a good gift, etc. Here’s the problem with being a maximizer during the holidays. It can lead to the following says Barry Schwartz, author of the super-successful Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More. Maximizing behavior can lead to:

  • Stress
  • Decision Paralysis (“analysis paralysis”)
  • Regret

If You Want to Stop Being a Mazimizer

If you want to stop being a maximizer, you can take specific steps to create what I call “GOOD Constraints” and to limit your actions in certain areas. For example, shopping a large part of the day? Going store to store? Putting pressure on yourself to find a really good gift? Try these three actions:
presents and happiness

  • Give yourself ___ time to make the decision – 20 seconds, 5 minutes, 2 days – limit yourself. Specifically, giving yourself three hours to get all your presents may be plenty.
  • Know that “almost good enough” is good enough. (This is a major Barry Schwartz thought). Specifically, going to one store may be plenty.
  • Once you make the decision, look only at the benefits of that decision to avoid buyer’s remorse. Specifically, if you see a different sweater for your sister and you’ve already bought one, you don’t need to examine the new sweater.

If you want to read more about maximizing, please enjoy these articles on PPND:

Finally, here is a wonderful video on Choice on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (click the “Windows Media” or “Real Player” links at the top) . Barry Schwartz is featured in this video and so is the above “former maximizer”! Great video that explains this so well.

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p.s. The Story: I wrote all this up because I had a great time being on Live with Lisa Radio today, and telling Lisa about these techniques and also about the story of Barry Schwartz and his students. Barry started studyng maximizing and satisficing because he was finding that college students graduating from Swarthmore were taking jobs at Starbucks.
Schwartz –> students –> Starbucks.
After speaking informally with some students, Barry learned that they felt they had so many options (banking, consulting, start-ups) that they weren’t sure what the BEST option was, and they were delaying deciding by taking a job at Starbucks.


  1. Posted Saturday December 20, 2008 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    If you want to read the PDF’s associated with this research…


    Maximizing Versus Satisficing: Happiness Is a Matter of Choice
    B Schwartz, A Ward, J Monterosso, S Lyubomirsky, K … – JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, 2002

    The Tyranny of Choice
    B Schwartz – Scientific American Mind, 2004 – Scientific American

    Are maximizers really unhappy? The measurement of maximizing tendency
    DL Diab, MA Gillespie, D Consulting, S Highhouse – Judgment and Decision Making, 2008

  2. Nick
    Posted Saturday January 10, 2009 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    This is really a great piece. Just about anyone should read this. “Stop being so perfectionist, people!!!”

    Thanks for linking to me. :) Yes!
    You could also link to the ABC piece I did as well.
    I love the whole maximizer stuff. I should write a piece on the advice that Barry gave me.

    Hmmm… “are maximizers really unhappy”… wow! Where did you find this?? Can’t wait to read it.