Being spoilt for choice spoils your productivity

April 15th, 2008 - 1:17 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, April 15 (IANS) Maybe, after an exciting round of shopping, you approach an ice-cream parlour where you are offered 50 tempting varieties. You would then spend the next 10 minutes agonising over what to order. Surprisingly, such a plethora of choices tends to make us more fatigued and less productive, negating the popular belief that having many options is a good thing, according to a study.

When spoilt for choice, people find it difficult to stay focussed enough to complete projects, handle daily tasks or even take their medicine. Daily hundreds of such options bombard us at the coffee shop, office, at stores or on TV.

Researchers conducted seven experiments involving 328 participants and 58 consumers at a shopping mall. In lab experiments, some participants were asked to make choices about consumer products, college courses or class materials.

They found that participants who earlier had made choices had more trouble staying focussed and finishing the disagreeable but goal-focussed tasks, as compared to the participants who initially did not have to make choices.

Researchers conducted a field test at a shopping mall. Participants reported how much decision-making they had done while shopping that day and were then assigned simple arithmetic problems.

The researchers found that the more choices the shoppers had made earlier in the day, the worse they performed on the arithmetic problems.

In other experiments, participants assigned math problems spent less time solving them and more time engaging in other distractions like video games or reading magazines, compared to participants who were not asked to make choices.

The participants who made choices also got more math problems wrong than participants not faced with decisions.

Kathleen D. Vohs of University of Minnesota and co-author of the study concluded that making choices apparently depletes a precious resource within the human mind.

These findings have appeared in the latest issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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