NY Times reporter John Tierney and researcher Roy Baumeister have written a book, “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength”, about Baumeister's area of scientific research: how the brain's performance degrades when it has to make lots of decisions and when it is tired. A New York Times Mag article by Tierney surveys some of the findings from the book. If you make a group of decisions count on the later ones to be of lower quality.
As they started picking features, customers would carefully weigh the choices, but as decision fatigue set in, they would start settling for whatever the default option was. And the more tough choices they encountered early in the process — like going through those 56 colors to choose the precise shade of gray or brown — the quicker people became fatigued and settled for the path of least resistance by taking the default option. By manipulating the order of the car buyers’ choices, the researchers found that the customers would end up settling for different kinds of options, and the average difference totaled more than 1,500 euros per car (about $2,000 at the time). Whether the customers paid a little extra for fancy wheel rims or a lot extra for a more powerful engine depended on when the choice was offered and how much willpower was left in the customer.
When able to do so it is best to order your decisions to make the most important and consequential ones first.
If you go for a buying approach increases the number of decisions you have to make you will make poorer quality decisions overall.
Similar results were found in the experiment with custom-made suits: once decision fatigue set in, people tended to settle for the recommended option. When they were confronted early on with the toughest decisions — the ones with the most options, like the 100 fabrics for the suit — they became fatigued more quickly and also reported enjoying the shopping experience less.
If you really want to take a more complex approach then try to spread your complex set of decisions out over different days. I've been doing that for a belated spring cleaning where I go thru lots of old possessions and ask myself do I really want to keep them. I could do it all in a few days. But I'm doing pieces each weekend over several weeks and and delaying decisions that I'm unsure about.
Another lesson from the article: If you are poorer then making buying decisions is more fatiguing. Buy less stuff and keep more money in your checking account so when you do go to buy you'll suffer less mental exhaustion from it. Living close to the financial edge is mentally exhausting.
Here is a blog post by Tierney on the same topic.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2011 August 22 08:01 AM Brain Performance|