The Myth of Discovery

13 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2011

See all articles by Claire A. Hill

Claire A. Hill

University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: 2008


This review essay of Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice discusses how Schwartz’s thesis that more choice is not always better should inform economists’ increasing acknowledgment that preferences are constructed, not fixed. In this companion piece to my more detailed consideration of the subject of constructed preferences, I argue that what makes the assumption of fixed preferences possible is a myth, the myth of discovery - that preferences exist to be discovered. Once we acknowledge that preferences are as much made as found, and that the raw materials from which they are made are scarcely stable, the assumption of fixed preferences becomes far less tenable. Schwartz’s account underscores that choosing isn’t just a simple process of discovery. When we choose, we do many other things as well: we may find out about ourselves, convey information to others, set ourselves up for good or bad feelings down the line and potentially, actions based thereon. In sum, a thorough cost/benefit calculation will not always favor more choice.

Keywords: preferences, rationality, choice

JEL Classification: A12, D83, D11

Suggested Citation

Hill, Claire Ariane, The Myth of Discovery (2008). Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, Vol. 9, No. 2, p. 743, 2008, Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-33, Available at SSRN:

Claire Ariane Hill (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota Law School ( email )

229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-624-6521 (Phone)

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