Making Decisions

Lesson Plan #1 – Maximizer vs Satisficer

This is one of my favorite lessons that I use for my students. it is inspired by this article (point 1) and looks at some key language, along with a great discussion about making decisions.

Level: Pre-intermediate +
How long does it take you…?, tend to be, to get anxious, make decisions, should have.
Type: Reading and conversation

1. Ask the following questions:

– How long does it take to fly from (insert home town) to (insert other city)?
– How long does it take you to get to work?
– How long does it take you to walk to (insert something specific to student)?

Ask a few more questions that are specific to the student starting with how long does it take you. Ask similar for questions but use  How long does it take (insert different person) to..?. Have them ask you similar questions.

2. Next set of questions

– When you’re in a restaurant, how long does it take you to order?
– What about your husband/wife/friend?
– Do you know people who take a really long time ordering?

Ask similar questions, for example: deciding on a holiday destination, choosing a hotel, food shopping, decisions at work, what phone to get, and then more specific questions.

3. Satisficer or Maximiser – Reading

Tell them that you think they are a satisficer/maximizer. Ask them what they think these two terms mean. Have them read the description out loud:

Satisficers are those who make a decision or take action once their criteria are met. That doesn’t mean they’ll settle for mediocrity; their criteria can be very high; but as soon as they find the car, the hotel, or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied

Maximizers want to make the optimal decision. So even if they see a bicycle or a photographer that would seem to meet their requirements, they can’t make a decision until after they’ve examined every option, so they know they’re making the best possible choice.

Pronunciation: Correct mispronounced words and practice, usually: criteria, mediocrity, photographer, examined.

Language: Usually: criteria, mediocrity, optimal, requirements, examined – ask questions relation to new language.

Discussion: Talk about whether they think they are a satisficer or a maximizer, along with their friends and family.

Before reading the next section, ask them: Generally, who is happier: a satisficer or a maximizer?

Read the following:

In a fascinating book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers must spend a lot more time and energy to reach a decision, and they’re often anxious about whether they are, in fact, making the best choice.

Pronunciation: Usually: Schwartz, anxious

Vocabulary: Usually: tend to be, anxious – ask questions related to new language.

This is a great opportunity to review should have; Ask: Have you bought something recently that you shouldn’t have bought?

This leads to a great discussion about buying things that you shouldn’t. A lot of my students find this question difficult, and when they do, I do a quick review of should have and talk about how it is used, give some examples, and then ask them more questions.

Other topics of discussion for this section: Do we have too many choices when in a supermarket/booking a holiday/vacation etc.? Do you read online reviews? 

4. Making decisions

Explain that the lesson has been about making decisions. You can extend the lesson at this point by asking them if they are good at making decisions. This usually leads to talking about decisions at work, who makes them, and whether these decisions are good ones. Think about their hobbies and interests and how you can ask them about making decisions related to their interests.

5. Homework and review

Have your students write about whether they think that they are a satisficer or a maximizer. Ask them to include any new language that they have learned where possible. Review key language in next class.

6. Further resources

Ted Talk – Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice. This talk leads to interesting conversations and is a follow on from this lesson. Here is the video:

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