There are all kinds of schools of thought, theories of psychology, and personality quizzes boasting to understand us. One you may not have heard of, however, is Herbert A. Simon’s position on decision-making. He received the Nobel Prize in 1978 and is best known for his work as an economist and cognitive psychologist. Earlier in his life (in 1956) he divulged his decision-making strategy where satisfy and suffice were beautifully combined to create satisficing.
Let’s begin with the more familiar term “maximize”. It is defined as “to make as large or as great as possible” or “to make the best use of.” The words great and best leave this word with a positive, even superior, connotation compared to the definitions of satisfying and suffice; “accept an available option as satisfactory, acceptable though not outstanding or perfect” and “to be enough or adequate.”
Simon’s theory provides us with a scale where on one end we have satisficers and on the other, we have maximizers. Based on the definitions of the base words above, who do you believe to be the happiest and most fulfilled kind of person?
Maximizers are people who tend to weigh all possible options in order to make a calculated choice that will give them the best outcome later. Maximizers have high standards and their ideal choice is one that provides them with what they perceive to be the loftiest benefits or highest utility. Satisficers on the other hand, are people who are more likely to settle for good enough, even if it is not necessarily the best. This is not to say satisficers are rash. They still examine and weigh their options when making decisions, but they do not make a point to examine every possibility.
Herbert Simon’s original assertations (along with subsequent and more recent research) have shown the following trends: Maximizers are more likely to achieve outcomes such as promotions or pay increases when compared to satisficers. They are also more likely to experience regret, buyer’s remorse, dissatisfaction, and engage in comparison. Even if they achieve the end goal, maximizers will often question whether this was the best choice and wonder what may have happened if they had chosen differently. Due to the satisficers’ focus on enough rather than best, they are more inclined to decide what they want to gain from a situation and then choose a solution that meets the need rather than pressuring themselves to make the best or greatest decision every time.
Maximizers may go after jobs with higher salaries or pursue the highest achievement, but they are more inclined to second guess these achievements in the end. When it comes to human nature, decision-making, and fulfillment…settling is where it’s at. The difference is this: Satisficers identify what they are looking for before pursuing something which leads them to choose an option that meets the need, whereas maximizers have decided that pursuing the best, greatest, or biggest solution will inevitably bring happiness, which is not always true. And in my opinion, trying to calculate the utility of every possible solution seems exhausting.
Too many options invite comparison and anxiety into our decision-making process. If you identify what you truly want, then you can make the best choice for you, one that will achieve what you hope to get out of the experience rather than one based on perfection. In his Nobel acceptance speech, Simon states it best: “Decision-makers can satisfice either by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world. Neither approach, in general, dominates the other, and both have continued to co-exist in the world.”
About Jasmine Payne:
Jasmine is a Resident in Counseling and provides services at the Fredericksburg location. She is a two-time graduate of Longwood University, receiving her B.S. in Psychology along with an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Throughout her graduate studies, Jasmine worked with teens and adults who belonged to various minority and multicultural populations. She also has familiarity with a wide spectrum of mental health concerns including anxiety/depression, grief, moodiness, self-improvement, motivation, relationship issues, and many more. To learn more about Jasmine, visit HERE.