Satisficer v Maximiser

by Tim Hobart

At the heart of what I do, is help people make better decisions with their money.

Decisions being the key word.

Understanding what type of decision maker you are is an important first step.

The Problem With Too Much Choice

“Learning to choose is hard.
Learning to choose well is harder.
And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is …perhaps too hard.”

— Prof. Barry Schwartz

Researcher and economist Herman Simon theorised that there are two types of decision-making styles, the Satisficer and the Maximiser.

You might be a Satisficer if…

Satisficers are happier making a fast but imperfect decision. They’ve spent a little time thinking about their choice but haven’t considered every possible option. Satisficers settle for an option that’s “good enough” and move on. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, described them this way:

“Satisficers make a decision once their criteria are met; when they find the hotel or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied.”

You might be a Maximiser if…

Maximisers are people who want to make the best possible decision. They can’t choose until they’ve deeply examined every option. Think of someone looking for a property or car.  They are endlessly searching for “the one” instead of choosing one that was good enough.  They can sometimes never complete their search until they find something wrong with it.

Research from Swarthmore College found that Maximisers reported significantly less life satisfaction, happiness, optimism, and self-esteem. They also experienced much higher levels of regret and depression than Satisficers.

Although both make good decisions, they feel very differently about the decisions they make. As Professor Schwartz put it:

“Maximisers make good decisions and end up feeling bad about them. Satisficers make good decisions and end up feeling good.”

Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the Maximising and Satisficing spectrum. But the younger you are, the more likely you are to be a Maximiser. And the older you get, the more of a Satisficer you become. It turns out that even the most hardened Maximiser eventually learns to let go of finding the perfect solution for every challenge. As author and psychologist William James put it:

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”

Republished with permission from the author, Tim Hobart.