Should you be a maximizer?

by on March 5, 2006 at 8:15 am in Economics | Permalink

Five hundred and forty-eight graduating students from 11 universities were categorised as maximisers or satisficers based on their answers to questions like “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 am relatively satisfied with what I’m listening to”.

When questioned again the following summer, the maximisers had found jobs that paid 20 per cent more on average than the satisficers’ jobs, but they were less satisfied with the outcome of their job search, and were more pessimistic, stressed, tired, anxious, worried, overwhelmed and depressed.

“We suggest that maximisers may be less satisfied than satisficers and experience greater negative affect with the jobs they obtain because their pursuit of the elusive ‘best’ induces them to consider a large number of possibilities, thereby increasing their potential for regret or anticipated regret, engendering unrealistically high expectations”, the researchers said. Indeed, the researchers found that maximisers were more likely to report fantasising about jobs they hadn’t applied for and wishing they had pursued even more jobs than they did.

Here is the link, and by now you know the usual caveats for such research.  Number one is whether the survey evidence measures true commitment to maximization, or whether it simply picks up grumps who are fussy and determined to portray a fussy image to the world.  Number two is whether they properly adjust for IQ, which may be causing both superior results and greater returns to search behavior.

1 DK March 5, 2006 at 7:31 pm

Hmm. If I got so frustrated with searching the radio dial that I bought an ipod and a car-to-ipod connection to use instead, am I a maximiser or a satisificer?

At least for me, happiness involves thinking outside the box to find something fundamentally better rather than searching through many slightly different options. Local minima are the bane of many search processes.

2 Steve March 10, 2006 at 4:37 pm

It seems that having a maximizing personality is synonymous with what we think of as drive and ambition. Another word for satisficing seems to be. The latter may be happier today, but where will they be twenty years from now?

3 linda October 10, 2006 at 11:39 am

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