Behavioral psychologist Chantal van der Leest examines our behavior in the workplace: who or what determines our daily decisions? Today: choice stress
A very proud aunt here, because both my nephew and niece start their further education next week. I think it’s great how they chose a study from the hundreds of study programs in the Netherlands. Just like all the other freshmen, by the way.
When I went to college – grandma says – a handful of educators came to my high school and you could choose to hear about mainstream education like law, math, or medicine. I had no idea of all the options, so the choice for psychology was made soon enough. Somehow I’m glad I didn’t know all the courses. Because the more choices we have, the more dissatisfied we are with our choices.
30 types of jam
Psychologist Barry Schwartz calls this phenomenon the choice paradox. You may be familiar with the world-famous 2000 jam study by two American psychologists. They let people in the supermarket choose from 6, 24 or 30 types of jam. Super nice if you have 30 varieties in front of you, your favorite flavor is definitely there. Nevertheless, people turned out to be more satisfied with their choice if they were allowed to choose from only six options.
The text continues below.
How is that possible? The more choices you have, the more time it takes to consider all the choices. And chances are you’ll find out later that a different choice might have been just that little bit better. Regret is lurking. Especially the so-called ‘maximisers’ can suffer from remorse. This type of decision maker maps out all options and weighs what up before making a decision.
Which sandwich for lunch?
Fortunately, I am a ‘satisficer’, as Schwartz calls it. I usually choose the first option that meets my requirements. There is something to be said for that, because satisficers feel less regret. Although they do make stupider choices than maximisers. Not a big deal with small decisions on which little depends, such as what sandwich you choose for lunch.
Maximisers should then choose more spontaneously, Schwartz believes. But when making big decisions, he says it’s better to challenge yourself to think a little longer and take stock of the pros and cons. Because even though maximisers are generally less happy with their choices, objectively they do have the better jobs. And yet, I think: who chooses better?
Want to know more about psychology and work? Read Chantal’s books Why Perfectionists Are Rarely Happy, 13 Tips Against Perfectionism (2021) and Our Fallible Thinking at Work (2018).
Watch all our work and career videos here:
Free unlimited access to Showbytes? Which can!
Log in or create an account and don’t miss out on any of the stars.