Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Recently, I saw an amazing lecture about the downside of having a lot of choices. It was absolutely riveting. A lot of studies have showed that people like having lots of choices. But they were flawed studies, because they just assumed that because people liked three choices better than two choices, that it would always be preferable to add more choices. But this is wrong. It turns out that there is a point (and it's a pretty low number) where the choices are actually changing the quality of life for the worse.
Worse for a number of reasons, but the most interesting one is this: you aren't satisfied with any choice you make, because, with all those choices, you must have missed the best choice. Even in corporations, the more choices the corporation offers for retirements plans, the lower the participation in the plans! People are defeated before they even start, because they can't decide. They actually give up the free money because they can't decide. This holds true for making decisions about telephones, computers, blue jeans, entrees on a menu, and automobiles.
If we can hand over choice to someone else, even someone who doesn't know any more than we do, we are happier. Ask any wife. My own husband tells me that sometimes choosing among many options is physically painful to him! He shops for groceries; I buy everything else. Since there are 275 choices for salad dressing, I'm not sure he got the best end of that deal.
Right now, for instance, I have the luxury of some rare free time. But I am not sure whether to do my needlework, read, look at hulu, check my facebook page, study search engine optimization, check Twitter (in case John Lithgow sent me another twitter), or photograph some of my items for my shop on 1000 Markets (www.1000markets.com). So what am I doing instead? Writing about my inability to choose.
And now I thought of something funny that David Letterman did years ago. He went to a shop named Just Bulbs and kept asking for other kinds of things, until the old lady in the shop was ready to kill him. "Just light bulbs," she was yelling. "Just like the sign says, JUST BULBS." I think I will make it my mantra.