Warning: too much choice can prove injurious to your brain and psyche

making choices, too many choices, decision making processYour choice and decision-making process has been made increasingly more difficult over the years. Now you’ve even more choices with respect to, well, making choices. 

For example do you want a:

  • fifteen, seventeen, twenty-six or fifty-two inch TV;
  • mobile phone with a camera, internet connection, WAP (whatever one of those is), games and what funky cover would you like to go along with it;
  • cappuccino, or even better a skinny latte or cappuccino, regular or skinny muffins, free-range or organic or run of the mill just about anything with respect to meat, poultry and produce.

For those of us fortunate enough to live in the western world we know this list is endless and most of the time we struggle to have a clue about what is and isn’t better for us and the planet.

There have actually been studies done using boxes of chocolates to illustrate the link between having too much choice and level of satisfaction.  

In one study a group was given a small box of six chocolates while another group was given a box filled with thirty.  The individuals given the smaller box of chocolates were more satisfied with what they’d been given.  For them the chocolates tasted better and they opted to be paid in chocolate rather than money for their part in the experiment – contrary to those in the other group who’d been given a greater number of chocolates to choose from. 

Barry Schwartz highlights this study, in his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, to support his view that  having more choices doesn’t necessarily enhance the quality of your life or afford you more freedom.  He actually goes so far as to say that too much choice can adversely affect your happiness.   He says there are three effects of having a spiralling number of choices and options: a) decision making requires much more effort, b) ‘mistakes’ are much more likely and c) the psychological ramifications of those ‘mistakes’ are increased. 

His notion of ‘mistakes’ with respect to the choices you make is moot.  Whatever choices you make in any moment is the best you can do in light of what you know and realize at that time.  However, he does reinforce the notion that having more rational and logical options to choose from may not be good if you see each of those options as potential mistakes. 

Even if you choose not to choose it’s still a choice. 

However, one of the worst things you can choose to do is to stand still, petrified by the illusion, that any choice you make has the possibility or potential of being a mistake. 

George Eliot is quoted as saying: “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice”.  Stagnation, brought on by fearing the appropriateness or consequence of any choice/decision, isn’t an option. 

What is up for review is reflecting on and evolving your view of the world so that the choices you make best serve you living life to the fullest.    

In the next blog we’ll look at how the choices you make about the lens through which you view yourself, others and the world greatly influences the colour, flavour and quality of your life. 

References

Schwartz, B. (2004), The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, Harper Collins, New York, USA

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