A Brief About Quora
Recently, I’ve been spending a bit of time scouring Quora.com, a Wikipedia-like Q&A website edited and organized by its community of users. It is a repository of user generated questions and answers to almost any topic imaginable. Amateurs (such as myself) and experts or celebrities (such as Jimmy Wales or Ashton Kutcher) contribute to codifying and spreading knowledge. A random selection of topics and example questions include:
- Life Advice: How do I get over my bad habit of procrastinating?
- Celebrities: Who is the most down-to-earth celebrity?
- Myrmecology: Can ants sense death?
- Computer Science: Can data storage ever reach an absolute limit?
It’s a fast and easy way to get introduced to a variety of new topics – a more efficient wiki surfing of sorts.
The Paradox Of Choice
I wanted to share on here an answer I recently wrote to the following question: What is the most awesome psychological fact(s) you know of?
The paradox of choice – which I believe is both the blessing and the bane of our generation (Gen Y). To put it simply, the paradox of choice states that the more choices one is given when making a decision, the less happy they tend to be about the decision they make (even if the selection is objectively better). This is driven by many factors, namely:
- Additional effort and psychological stress associated with evaluating multiple options
- Increased opportunity cost a.k.a “the grass is greener on the side” syndrome (the way in which we value things depends on what we compare them to. It’s thus easier to imagine the attractive features of rejected options, the features we did NOT choose)
- Greater “buyer’s remorse” (with so many alternatives, it’s easier to imagine how another choice would have been better)
- Increased expectations from options (“with 87 options I have to find the perfect option for me”)
- Finally, we are more likely to blame ourselves when our choices don’t meet our expectations (“I had all these options, it’s obviously my fault, I should have picked better” vs. “I was only presented with 2 options, not enough to make the right decision”)
Increasingly these days, youth (among other age groups) is presented with an overwhelming selection of options whether for small less significant decisions (e.g., 87 types of toothpastes) or for more significant decisions (e.g., university degrees, career paths). I believe the paradox of choice is one of the underlying reasons why so many of us (including myself) are increasingly indecisive and anxious about these so called “life decisions”. But that’s a different topic…
Whether or not we understand the paradox of choice and its impact, come decision time, we often intuitively remain convinced that more options must be better. Why would I want to limit my options to a small subset, when I can look at every option and then make the best decision? An objectively better option does not necessarily lead to improved satisfaction and contentment.
The mind is a funny thing.