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Maximizing vs. Satisficing


Explanations > Preferences > Maximizing vs. Satisficing

Maximizing | Satisficing | So what?


Some people take a maximising approach to life, whilst others are less driven to experience. As with other choices, this is a sliding spectrum and people will have a preferred position.


A person with a maximizing approach to life seeks to squeeze the most out of every day. They live life to the full and seek experiences from which they can learn and which they gain pleasure and enjoyment. They tend to be perfectionists and seek the best in everything.

They see life as limited and that a day spent doing nothing is a day lost forever. When left alone, whilst worrying about what they might be missing, they will likely be thinking hard, maximizing their inner experience. Maximizers cannot do everything and may fret about this.

Much of being a maximizer comes out in the decisions they make and the way they make those decisions. They will explore all options and then seek to keep their options open in case something better comes along, in which case they will quickly change horses. More options tend to cause them more stress as the chance of making the wrong choice is greater. If they have to choose they will probably keep checking that they made a good decision and fret about being able to change their minds.

Because they seek more in life, maximizers may well be better off, with more successful careers. This does not mean they are happier and their fretting can prevent them from seeing how well they have done. They want more out of relationships and may consequently be more likely to have repeated break-ups.


A person who tends towards satisficing is likely to focus more on 'just enough' rather than 'as much as possible'. They are more easily contented and will be happy with a relatively quiet life.

In decision-making, they will make a choice as soon as it becomes apparent and then will be unlikely to change their minds unless they feel significant pressure. They avoid tension and will usually take the easiest, least stressful choices. They are also much less like to regret the choices they make.

So what?


See also

Type A and Type B personalities, Judging vs. Perceiving


Schwartz, B., Ward, A., Monterosso, J., Lyubomirsky, S., White, K. and Lehman, D. R. (2002). Maximizing versus satisficing: Happiness is a matter of choice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1178-1197.



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