Maximizers and Satisficers

During Reading Week, our class’ positive psych challenge was related to decision making. We discussed in class how, when making decisions, people tend to be maximizers or satisficers. Maximizers are those who seek out all possible options before making a decision in an attempt to make the best decision. In contrast, satisficers are those who may not spend countless hours searching for the best option, but they find one that is good enough.

The problem is that maximizers tend to be less satisfied with their decisions; they constantly fret about how they could have made a better decision. Whereas satisficers, may not have gotten the best, but they are still very satisfied.

In class, we came to the conclusion that individuals are not confined to one type of decision making and can exhibit one or the another depending on the situation.

How do you approach decision making? Which situations are you a maximizer or a satisficer?

At first, I suspected myself as a maximizer because I tend to think through many of my decisions. However, upon further reflection I realized that, in general, I’m a satisficer. I don’t usually regret my decisions, nor do I ruminate on the decisions that I should have made; I tend to be satisfied with many of my decisions. I will take time to think of what I want and what I’m looking for in an outcome, but when I find something that fits this description, that is enough to satisfy me. Maybe I tend to limit my options sometimes, but why would I seek out something better, that may not even exist, if I’ve found something good?

On the other hand, on a smaller scale, I tend to me a maximizer. In the grocery store, for example, I don’t just pick any good looking apple. I scan, seek out, and select the ones that are most without blemish. Or when I buy a book, I seek out the one that is in the most pristine condition. Who wants to read a book that is not in mint condish? (Unless it’s a very old book  passed down from generations and subjected to wear and tear – which makes it even more intriguing to hold). These selections take more time than if I was satisficing – but really, in the grand scheme of things, maximizing in this situation only requires a short amount of extra time.

But is it possible to be both a satisficer and a maximizer at the same time in a single instance?  I’m wondering this because in many other occasions where it is necessary to seek out the best option, I feel as though I am still satisfied with the decision that I make. Don’t think I’ve ever regretted an apple that I chose.

The textbook suggested to go shopping and limit yourself to certain arbitrary restrictions: visit only two stores, spend less than 15 minutes making a purchase, buy only items that are blue. And then make these decisions irreversible, for instance, by going to a store with a no-return policy.

The only things that I set out to purchase that week were fruits and veggies. And if I chose to restrict myself to abiding by these restrictions and not make my own, I would be limited to the purchase of blueberries. And come on, we all know those are sadly out of season.

Because purchasing fruits and veggies is, hopefully, a purchase that requires little thought, I didn’t find it fitting to use these restrictions. Therefore, instead of purchasing items as the textbook suggested, I decided to apply these concepts into how I chose activities that I would be spending time on. After all, as the saying goes: time is money.

This Reading Week, I piled into a car with four other friends for a fantastic mini road trip. The city that we visited for the weekend was holding a winter festival with countless activities. We got a pamphlet and soon realized that there was SO much to choose from. We could not do it all, let alone even 10% of it. So we had to work with the time that we had. But because our time was precious, we also weren’t going to spend hours mapping out the best possible route to all the best possible exhibits and activities. So we all briefly looked at the pamphlet, picked out a few things of interest, made sure everyone was game, and off we went. And although we still had the pamphlet, I wasn’t interested in looking at what else I could have gone to. Why would I when I could be spending time anticipating what I would be going to.

And we ended up doing so many fun activities! Arts museum, ice slide, fireworks, Ferris wheel, science museum, planetarium. Not to mention everything (minus the arts museum) was FREE! And it also helped that all of these attractions were opened to the wee hours of the morning. Who can say that they were at the Planetarium gazing up at “stars” at 2 in the morning?! It was awesome.

Since time is irreversible, our experiences could not be returned. And I’m glad for that! On a side note, wouldn’t it be weird if our experiences could be wiped from our memory for what we think will be better ones?

One of the best things that this exercise stresses is to be grateful for what you have. A very important reminder indeed.

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