Thursday, May 5, 2011

Decision Gridlock of the Trivial

As we discussed earlier: “Day-to-day life can be a distraction from pursuing anything meaningful.”
I think there are a number of levels at which this occurs, but did find a discussion of one of the reasons for this:
Aner Sela, Jonah Berger, Wharton
People often find themselves mired in seemingly trivial decisions. We agonize over what toothbrush to buy, struggle with what flight to purchase, and labor over which shade of white to paint the kitchen. While common wisdom and much research suggest that people should deliberate harder the more important the decision (Chaiken and Maheswaran 1994; Petty and Wegener 1998), why do people sometimes get stuck in seemingly minor choices? Ht MR.

Since they tend to use overly foggy language, we will attempt a simplification.
Our brains software, even at the subconscious level expects trivial decisions to be easy and important decisions to be difficult.  When we come across a trivial decision (which toothpaste to buy) that winds up being more difficult than expected, our subconscious software signals that this is an important decision and we put or nose to the grindstone and double down our efforts.  It becomes hard to let go, because at the subconscious level we have come to think that this is an important decision.
This tends to go glove-in-hand with the psychological observations that too many choices can make for decision gridlock.

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