REMEMBER the bad old days when children went to the local school, Telstra provided your telephone, and the state provided the electricity?Now that we are bombarded with choice in every area of our lives, are we any happier?Visiting professor of psychology, Barry Schwartz, believes too much choice makes for misery. And the most miserable are the most diligent shoppers, those determined to get the very best deal.”The more comparison shopping you do, the more carefully you evaluate the options, the more likely it is that whatever you choose will leave you feeling dissatisfied,” said Professor Schwartz, of Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania.Professor Schwartz will be in Sydney for the two-day Happiness and Its Causes conference, beginning Wednesday, that brings together international speakers including Edward de Bono, Naomi Wolf and Robert Thurman.His now-famous study involving thousands of people shines a light on why abundant choice has produced no gains in well-being in affluent societies. It suggests the more options people have, the more likely some will experience disappointment with their choice, and this response extends beyond frocks and fridges to choice of job or life partner.”You have a wonderful partner but you think ‘is this the best person on earth for me?’ You keep looking over your shoulder. This is not a recipe for a satisfied life,” he said.Professor Schwartz and colleagues composed a set of statements to identify people he calls ”maximisers”, those who always aim to make the best possible choice, and those he calls ”satisficers”, who aim for ”good enough.”People fell along a continuum but the study found the greatest maximisers were the least happy with the fruits of their search.Despite exerting enormous time and effort reading labels and checking consumer magazines, the maximisers got less satisfaction from their purchases than people who considered fewer options and were content with ”good enough”.The maximisers were more prone to experiencing regret after a purchase.Professor Schwartz said maximisers felt sorrow about the opportunities they had forgone, and quickly got used to their purchases, so that the experience of having made a superior choice soon began to feel flat.Maximisers turned out to be less happy with life in general, less optimistic and more depressed compared to people who subscribed to the ”good enough” philosophy.Professor Schwartz said a further study of university graduates showed maximisers secured better jobs and higher pay than the ”good enough” brigade but on every measure felt worse about the job search and the job, and their life in general. ”It’s the price people pay when they are out to get the best,” he said.Having witnessed the angst his daughter endured in selecting a school for her child, Professor Schwartz considers the new emphasis on school choice a ”disaster”.”She tortured herself; whichever school she chose she had to give up something attractive in another,” he said. ”And after the decision, she continued hand-wringing.”He said some choice was essential because people needed to feel in control of their lives but the mistake had been to assume ”the more the better”.As a way out of the paradox of choice, Professor Schwartz recommends people outsource to their friends. ”I have a vision of a community of friends where someone is the expert on consumer electronics, another is the expert on restaurants, another on computers,” he said.ROAD TO RECOVERY Visit no more than two stores when clothes shoppingLearn to accept ”good enough”Don’t worry about what you’re missingDon’t expect too much