The Paradox of Choice – Why More is Less

Learning with Lisa Tan

☀️📤📈Choosing How to Werk🏋️‍♀️📆🗓

“After people choose a career path, new choices face them. The telecommunication revolution has created enormous flexibility about when and where many people can work. And once people are in the position to be able to work at any time from any place, they face decisions every minute of every day about whether or not to be working.

Email is just a mouse click away. Should we check it before we go to bed? Should we bring our laptop along on our vacation? Should we check our work chat while waiting between courses at the restaurant?

For people in many occupations, there are few obstacles standing in the way of working all the time. And this means that whether or not we work has become a matter of hour by hour, minute by minute choice.

And who do we work for? Here, too, it seems that every day we face a choice. People switch jobs to get big raises and to pursue opportunities for advancement. They switch jobs because they want to live in a different city. They switch jobs because they’re bored.

Think for a moment about what the above means to us as decision-makers. This means that questions “Where should I work?”, “What kind of work should I do?” are never resolved. Nothing is ever settled. The antennae for new and better opportunities are always active.

This kind of job mobility offers many opportunities. Being able to move around, changing employers and even careers open doors to challenging and fulfilling options.

But it comes at a price. And that price is the daily burden of gathering information and making decisions.”

🙇‍♀️ The Thing about Remembering 🤔

Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have shown what we remember about the pleasurable quality of our past experience are almost entirely determined by two things.

1. how the experience felt when they were at their peak (best or worst)
2. And when they felt when they ended.

This “peak-end” rule of Kahneman’s is what we use to summarize the experience, and then we rely on that summary later to remind ourselves of how the experience felt.

The summary in turn influence our decision about whether to have that experience again, and factors such as the proportion of pleasure to displeasure during the course of the experience, or how long the experience lasted, have almost no influence on our memory of it.

Example?

For positive experiences, in retrospect, you may remember a one week vacation that had some great moments and finished with a bang as more pleasurable than a three-week vacation that also had some great moments but finished with a whimper. The two extra weeks of relaxing in the sun seeing the sights or eating great food made little difference because they recede from awareness over time.

So how well do we know what we want? The discrepancy between logic and memory suggests that we don’t always know what we want.

What causes regret? 😭

1. We tend to regret actions we did, compared to actions we failed to do. It’s called the omission bias
Interestingly, the omission bias undergoes a reversal when we contemplate decisions made in the distant past.

When asked about what they regret most in the last six months, people tend to identify actions that didn’t meet expectations. But when asked about what they regret most when they look back on their lives as a while, people tend to identify failures to act.

In the short run, we regret a bad educational choice, whereas in the long run; we regret a missed educational opportunity. So it seems that we don’t close the psychological door on the decisions we’ve made, and as time passes, what we’ve failed to do looms larger and larger.

A second factor that affects regret is how close we come to achieving our desired result. Eg – bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists lul. And if we miss our flight by 5 mins, we’re livid.

The third is responsibility. Several studies have shown that bad studies make people equally unhappy whether or not they’re responsible for them. But bad results make people regretful only if they bear responsibility.

So although adding options may make it easier for us to choose something we really like, it will also make it easier for us to regret choices that don’t live up to our hopes or expectations.

About Choice

Ultimately, to derive the benefits and avoid the burdens of choice, we must learn to be selective in exercising our choices. We must decide, individually, when choice really matters and focus our energies there, even if it means letting many other opportunities pass us by.

The choice of when to be a chooser may be the most important choice we have to make.

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