Too Many Choices…Is More Really Better?

In a new podcast I’ve been listening to called “The Happiness Lab” by Dr. Laurie Santos, she recently explored the issue of having too many choices. In the episode, entitled “Choice Overload,” Dr. Santos examines the effects of our society’s belief that choices bring us greater freedom and the message of “more is better.” Some interesting facts from the episode include:

  • Walking down a supermarket aisle can give you up to 275 choices in cookies brands; 150 types of salad dressings – just as two examples.
  • Starbucks has over 80,000 drink options- and that doesn’t include seasonal drinks!

Although we may think that being given so many choices is in our favour, this is what Dr. Santos remarked about how too many choices can lead to decision fatigue:

“Our minds might tell us that finding the best out of all of the options will feel like an achievement, but that is simply not the case. When lots of options are present, even if we do well, we feel worse. Our poor minds just can’t handle all those choices all at once. The human brain doesn’t have the capacity to accurately decide whether a Venti Soy Latte with Caramel is tastier than 79, 999 other choices – so we just filter out the other choices. But all that filtering out still comes at a serious cost to our well being – just seeing all of those choices above the counter are cognitively draining which can lead to worse decisions later on; a phenomenon that Behavioural Scientists call decision fatigue.”

This gives us food for thought about all of the choices that we may face in a day and how perhaps we can begin to reduce our choice overload on a daily basis.

Less choosing, less doing; sticking to simple routines. I guess “less really is more.”

To listen to the full episode:

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Photo credit: http://Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

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