Skip to main content

Infinite Choice -- Writer's Poke #282

The average person living in the United States today has more freedom of choice than any person living in the entire history of humankind. But does more choice equate to more happiness? How do we cope with the infinite number of options we "enjoy"?

Psychologists have developed tests that indicate that too many choices lower overall satisfaction levels. In other words, if we have a few options, that's optimal, but when we have to sift through dozens of choices, it's too much for us to handle. We become numb through oversaturation.

Common sense would suggest the truth behind the curse of choice, too. Think about going to the store to buy a box of cereal. Does it really matter that the grocery store stocks a hundred different kinds of cereal, or are you simply going to pick out Honey Nut Cheerios like you have done every previous time? It takes a special kind of person to select an unknown cereral from the more tried and true options available.

Or, think about something you do on a less frequent basis. When you go to buy a gallon of paint, for example, do you like have thirty different shades of yellow to compare, or does the number of options simply become burdensome? After a while, all of the yellows tend to blend together. Who really knows what the yellow will look like on your bedroom wall anyway? So just pick one and be done with it.

Perhaps having too many choices inhibits our ability to choose at all. We simply submit, basically giving up our right to choose by selecting what is most familiar. Or most easy.

Does choice best work in moderation?

"It is the ability to choose which makes us human." -- Madeleine L'Engle

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Summer Day Trip #1: Caledonia, Minnesota

The Wired Rooster Coffee Shoppe -- Caledonia, Minnesota


I've lived in Minnesota for over ten years, sure, but that doesn't mean I've actually seen much of the state. Like most people, I know what I know, and I go where I go. And that's the extent of it. But once I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to make it to Alaska this summer, it occurred to me that I had plenty of sites to explore in the immediate region.

First stop: Caledonia, Minnesota. Where's that? It's a small town in the southeast corner of the state. Before I opened my Rand McNally Road Atlas, I had never heard of it, and before I punched the town name into Trip Advisor, I didn't know if there was anything there worth visiting.

Distance from home: About 75 miles.

Challenge #1: Leaving by 6:30 a.m.

Challenge #2: Taking my dog, Atticus.

Actually, Atticus is a good dog on a road trip, but the forecast indicated that it was going to get into the 90s. I wanted to leave early in the …

Summer Day Trip #3: Jackson, Minnesota

Some time ago in the spring, I found out that David Ellefson, bass player and co-founder of Megadeth, was rebranding the coffee shop in Jackson, Minnesota. Every so often I would tell Linda that I planned to drive over there to check it out, but the morning that I actually decided to drive over there to check it out, I think I surprised her. I’m not sure she thought I would ever do it.
“What else are you going to do over there?”
“Oh, that’s it. Just drive over there, order a cup of coffee, and drive home.”
I had checked out Jackson on Tripadvisor, and honestly, Jackson seemed like it didn’t have much going on. My mind map of southwestern Minnesota was mainly a blank. I knew that I-90 drove through, but I thought perhaps the interstate was a metaphor: Beware ye who enter here, lest ye be on your way to somewhere else.
When I told Tavi we were driving two hours to visit a coffee shop, the idea didn’t seem far-fetched to her. She only had one question, “Do they serve hot cocoa?” I promised …