04 October 2019

Unhappiness resulting from too many choices

From an article published by the Stanford Center on Longevity:
Summary: We presume that more choices allows us to get exactly what we want, making us happier.  While there is no doubt that some choice is better than none, more may quickly become too much.  Drawbacks include:
  • Regret:  More options means constantly considering the option we didn’t choose –decreasing satisfaction overall.
    • Instead, learn to accept “good enough” and stop thinking about it.
  • Adaptation: By becoming accustomed to whatever we’ve chosen, the availability to more options decreases our satisfaction with our choice.
    • Instead, limit thinking about options foregone, and focus on the positive of the option chosen.
  • Unattainable expectations: With increased options, our expectation escalates until we constantly expect to get precisely what we want.  Thus anything less than perfect is disappointing, and we blame ourselves (as the decision makers) for our unhappiness.
    • Instead, control expectations to a certain standard of requirements, and keep them reasonable.
  • Paralysis: Too many options can decrease the likelihood of making any decision at all.
    • Instead, limit options when decisions aren’t crucial.
Largely an issue for modern, affluent Western societies, the paradox of too much choice strains consumers’ capacity for decision making.  Making financial security decisions simple, easy, and justifiable may facilitate increased and happier participation.
The source article has a detailed analysis of what I often refer to as "first-world problems."  Via Boing Boing.  Photo taken at my local Target.

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader dragonmamma for providing the link to this relevant Calvin and Hobbes cartoon:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-XHNOGHyHRxA/Vgk5AIX35iI/AAAAAAAABPU/_sTwgLeu9NQ/s1600/Cartoon2.jpg

    1. Added to the post, with credit. Thanks, Dragonmamma.

  3. Whoops! Wrong song... old brain. Right album though... Joe Jackson... "It's All Too Much"
    Two hundreds brands of cookies
    87 kinds of chocolate chip
    They say that choice is freedom
    I'm so free it drives me to the brink

  4. Of course the opposite doesn't overly appeal ... like when you live in a provincial town and the 'other' supermarket has closed down and the one left, having only so much shelf space, choses middle of the road everything, so nothing is 'HOT' only medium, nothing is 'STRONG' only mid range, please the middle of the road coffee drinkers, not fellas such as me, with the big needs for real man's coffee. And always with the monopolistic brands, which in the local supermarket is Pam's, which is mostly ok, but you know, some of the stuff in the packets was obviously the cheapest they could get. Be nice to have a superbmarket, rather than just a supermarket.

  5. Was this in response to this tweet: https://twitter.com/bennyjohnson/status/1174871396855382016

    1. I don't waste time replying to stuff like that.

  6. I wonder if that might be why the days of three networks seemed so much better? We thought we would be better off with more choice, but instead, we started hearing pretty much ALL voices...and that didn't make us happier or better. In fact, I doubt it even made us more informed. We simply tend to watch those channels where our "gut" agrees that they are about right. And maybe a few contrary voices that our "gut" tells us are not too wrong. And we wind up believing pretty much what we believed all along.

  7. Yeah, IDK, feels like misplaced nostalgia -- there was a lot of crap on those three channels that we just consumed because it was our only option. More quantity doesn't ALWAYS equate more quality but it does allow for more niche options that might not appeal to everyone. I DO miss the days, though, when there were laws stating that you had to be reporting actual facts to be considered "news" -- Fox "News" Channel's "Opinion/Talking Head" shows are responsible for more misinformed people in America than just about anything else!

    1. FWIW, Fox News is not registered with the FCC as a news channel. It is licensed in the "entertainment" category.

    2. @Minnesotastan: Why does that not surprise me in the least? It makes their court argument that they have the right to lie as the bases for their legal defense make so much more sense. Since it's "entertainment" and not "news," they can say anything they want. *sigh* Their rabid fan base will either never see this or laugh it off as "liberal propaganda." And I say again: *sigh*


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