Satisficer and Maximizer, Revisited



Updated June 8, 2022

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You may remember Herbert Simon coined the term satisfice to strike a distinction between classical and behavioral economics. Classical economics posits that we are all maximizers who strive to get the very best out of every decision we make. However, this assumes that we are rational and armed with the information needed to make that optimal choice. Simon proposed that this is rarely, if ever, the case, due to the limits of human cognition. Rather, he suggests an alternative route wherein the decision maker can be a satisficer by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world, or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world.

In both cases, the satisficer is happy to walk away with a good enough solution that meets the threshold set by them, as opposed to the best possible one.

You were a satisficer when you were trying to pick the universities to apply to.

Now, we want you to be a maximizer.

Let’s revisit the example of purchasing a house. At first, you were browsing dozens of listings to eliminate the ones that did not fit your minimum requirements and applied to the top ten that did. Guess what? Your bid got accepted in three places! Now, you have to go inspect each of them in person and create a bigger list of factors that will affect your everyday experience of living there. Is there an HOA fee? How much will it cost to fix the roof? What are the neighbors like? Until you got your bid picked, all these questions were reserved for the imagination. Now, they have become very real, and we want you to be a maximizer since the stakes are high.

The good news is, as the need to optimize increased, your world also became much more simplified with limited choices for you to choose from. At first, you were trying to select from hundreds of universities. And now, it is just a handful.

Until you received those selection emails from the universities, the ball was in their court.

Not anymore.

The Quadrant Framework, Revisited

Time to open your Dream Tracker again.

actionNavigate to the Choosing Universities sheet where you have a trove of information on each university already. We told you earlier that you would make your future self’s life a lot easier by doing all the research diligently. If you did, thank your past self now. If you didn’t, that’s OK too. Re-read the chapter Choosing the Universities once again and apply the quadrant and framework we gave you for just the universities you got an admit from.

In fact, let’s revisit the quadrant once again.

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