Decision Fatigue

Late last year, the New York times ran a long expose on how people wear down under repeated decision making. If you spend all day shopping for stuff (evil, evil stuff), looking for a new house, all day meetings at work, and so on, your ability to make critical decisions wears down. From the article:

Once you’re mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision making. In the rest of the animal kingdom, there aren’t a lot of protracted negotiations between predators and prey. To compromise is a complex human ability and therefore one of the first to decline when willpower is depleted. You become what researchers call a cognitive miser, hoarding your energy. If you’re shopping, you’re liable to look at only one dimension, like price: just give me the cheapest. Or you indulge yourself by looking at quality: I want the very best (an especially easy strategy if someone else is paying). Decision fatigue leaves you vulnerable to marketers who know how to time their sales, as Jonathan Levav, the Stanford professor, demonstrated in experiments involving tailored suits and new cars.

The biggest take away is that if you’re going to be making lots of decisions, bring some candy with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *