Monday, July 28, 2008

Tough Choices

If you've ever felt like your head hurts running through complex decision trees in your mind, here is the scientific explanation. Now I know why I hate long restaurant menus and shopping for a basic black skirt. Who in their right mind needs to have twenty five salad options to select from for a workday lunch or just as many kinds of black skirts only to find none of them meet your understanding of "basic". It seems that a lot of life's aggravations result from having to plow through too many choices - it weakens your brain and leaves it less useful for other work (or play)

Why is making a determination so taxing? Evidence implicates two important components: commitment and tradeoff resolution. The first is predicated on the notion that committing to a given course requires switching from a state of deliberation to one of implementation. In other words, you have to make a transition from thinking about options to actually following through on a decision. This switch, according to Vohs, requires executive resources. In a parallel investigation, Yale University professor Nathan Novemsky and his colleagues suggest that the mere act of resolving tradeoffs may be depleting. For example, in one study, the scientists show that people who had to rate the attractiveness of different options were much less depleted than those who had to actually make choices between the very same options.

That would explain why I can imagine the subtle differences in taste resulting from the variation in the ingredients of the said salads or tell when may be a good occasion for wearing one of the not-so-basic black skirts but making a purchase is hellishly hard.

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