Sweating the small stuff

May 9th, 2012 by Ben Claxton

Recent research shows how making supposedly trivial decisions can become a long and involved process if a lot of choice is present.

People confuse the number of options with the importance of that decision. The more choices there are, the more important the decision is assumed to be. The researchers describe this phenomenon of getting bogged-down in choice-making as “decision quicksand”.

Building on Barry Scwartz’s work on “Choice Paralysis“, they also found that this gets worse for decisions the more trivial they are supposed to be.

“…people sometimes fall into a recursive loop between deliberation time, difficulty, and perceived importance… Inferences from difficulty may not only impact immediate deliberation, but may kick off a quicksand cycle that leads people to spend more and more time on a decision that initially seemed rather unimportant. Decision quicksand sucks people in, but the worse it seems, the more we struggle.”

When it comes to decision overheads, less is definitely more.

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