The Burden of Choice

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The Burden of Choice

Postby BadgerJelly on October 13th, 2020, 5:09 am 

We probably all believe - flippantly - that ‘more choice’ is better! Generally speaking though this is often further from the truth than we’re willing to admit.

For example if I show you two colours and say pick one for your house, it will be painted in that colour, then the choice wouldn’t be particularly hard. If they were quite similar then the choice is less important, but if one colour was deemed ‘horrific’ the choice would be much easier (as it would be if both colours were ‘horrific’).

If both colours are ‘horrific’ the a broader choice serves us better, whereas if both colours are very pleasing it isn’t of any concern to us to search out a better option.

Let is now imagine we’ve persuaded whomever to produce a larger range of options and we’re presented with 50 different shades and hues none of which we find to be particularly horrible or amazing, but all of which are varied enough to warrant closer inspection. Now we’re stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’.

What should we do from here?

When faced with a vast array of different choices how do you circumnavigate the ever present demon of ‘analysis paralysis’?

Note: I’m sure the situation would dictate how much care you took in your choices so I’ll present some more pressing matters than a mere colour choice. Something like career choice, subject choice for a degree, partner choice, country to live in, or a decision about a financial investment perhaps.

Any relevant literature links especially welcome (be these philosophical or otherwise - psychological, political and/or neurological).

Thanks
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby charon on October 13th, 2020, 10:48 am 

Simple, don't use choice. There are better ways than choice with its confusion.

Mind you, choosing a room colour is one thing but partner choice? Life isn't a brothel where you have to pick one.

Career choice? Who says you have to have a career? That's traditional. The person who yearns to be an artist or a dancer doesn't choose, they know.

Etc.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby mtbturtle on October 14th, 2020, 8:47 pm 

Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" might be of interest here. It deals with a number of cognitive bias and covers several that affect our abilities to make choices.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby TheVat on October 14th, 2020, 9:12 pm 

Welcome back, mtb!

I'd expect neuroscientist Sam Harris has also looked into this topic in his many bloggings.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby mtbturtle on October 14th, 2020, 9:21 pm 

I dunno who when or why but here I be bad penny and all.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby BadgerJelly on October 15th, 2020, 12:29 am 

mtbturtle » October 15th, 2020, 8:47 am wrote:Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" might be of interest here. It deals with a number of cognitive bias and covers several that affect our abilities to make choices.


Sounds interesting

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictably_Irrational

Do you have link to something that could tell us a little more, and/or your personal take on this work?
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby TheVat on October 15th, 2020, 10:09 am 

Why people make irrational choices has certainly become a larger theme among those who write on the US political scene the past four years. Ariely's book could hardly be more relevant than it is now.

I see it's at the local PL, so might grab a copy.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby charon on October 15th, 2020, 10:45 am 

'...potentially lower the number of car accidents in teenagers by performing tasks such as... dialing the teenager's mother when the car exceeds a set speed.'


Yup, this guy's got his head on the right way round :-)
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby charon on October 15th, 2020, 12:22 pm 

Lecture coming up...

As I said to Badger, who's not talking to me, there must be a better way other than choice.

I was going to suggest that one considers, not the things we choose, but choice itself. Choice, it seems, is always accompanied by confusion or frustrations, perhaps even very simple choices. There's always this thread of uncertainty running through it.

Why? Obviously we choose according to various factors, the circumstances, our own personal likes and dislikes, what may give us the most advantage, and so on.

So choice, again evidently, is never 'free' in that sense. We consider the right to choose as a form of freedom, which it is, of course. No one wants to be told what they should eat, wear, do, to the extent they have no say in the matter. It's part of our valued autonomy that we can choose for ourselves without being influenced, persuaded or usurped.

But any choice we make - any - is going to be thoroughly influenced by our own predilections and considerations. If we like blue, we're not going to choose red or yellow.

And what's wrong with that? On one level it's harmless. On the other, it's not when we extend the simple act of choosing to the whole of life.

We're born into this world and are presented with the whole mess. It's a dangerous place, make no mistake. There's education, work, relationships, politics, religion, and all the complexities of daily living, right throughout life.

So all our life is a series of choices and decisions. And it's one of the peculiarities of life that we can't have our own way. Things can go wrong no matter how careful we are.

As I said, choice always involves a certain confusion and frustration. If all our life is a series of choices, does that imply we live in confusion and frustration from the beginning to the end? Because it might, and I think that's exactly what happens to us.

So I'm asking if there's not a better way, and I think there is. Describing it, however, might be problematical.

Personally, I don't make choices. I go by whatever is there at the time. I've never chosen a career or a religion, or a mate, or anything else. I'll be told I chose to write this post but I'd deny that. It rose up and I wrote it, it's that simple.

I think if one is very clear in oneself about things it obviates choice. To me, all religion and politics, for example, are foolish things. They're divisive and either fanciful in their activity or very ugly, if not violent, so I don't go near them. I don't choose not to get involved, what they are is self-evident so, if one is certain about it, that's the end of that; it's not a matter of choice.

So, really, this isn't about choice per se, it's about society and the clarity of mind which is freedom. We've talked about freedom before and I've stuck to that.

As I've said before, freedom, to me, isn't being able to do what one wants, that's too childish, it's about clarity in life confronted by the confusing mess which is the world. There's a state of mind that doesn't choose because living isn't a matter of personal decision; there's only what actually is.

The person who needs to choose what they do in life doesn't sufficiently know themselves. Similarly, the person who tries to choose which leader to follow, or which church to join, or which ideal or ideology to cling to, is a confused person.

It's not a question of how to become clear, it's a question of seeing what choice is and its dangers, as one has to see what society is and its dangers. Choice and society go together, they're inextricably entwined. With all the dangers comes choice, what to do or not do, what to have or not have, what to be or not be, and so on.

If one, with great intelligence, deserts all that, and one has to, then one becomes the outsider - not a vagabond or an isolationist, but the person who, inwardly, has no part of it. Therefore one is free whatever one's circumstances and is therefore freed of the necessity of this continual choice, confusion and misery.

After all, what is morality? Society is not moral. It's perfectly acceptable to be afraid, ambitious, pursue power, money, cut throats in business, kill for the country, create havoc in the streets through revolt, and so on. But where there's clarity and freedom there's an absolute morality, there's nothing more so.

So we're really talking about a completely different way of life to the accepted norm. That life finds its own way, its own path, not in opposition to the society but in spite of it.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby mtbturtle on October 15th, 2020, 4:45 pm 

BadgerJelly » Wed Oct 14, 2020 11:29 pm wrote:
mtbturtle » October 15th, 2020, 8:47 am wrote:Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" might be of interest here. It deals with a number of cognitive bias and covers several that affect our abilities to make choices.


Sounds interesting

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictably_Irrational

Do you have link to something that could tell us a little more, and/or your personal take on this work?


No links sorry. Personally I found the book accessible to a lay person. Filled with examples backed-up with related studies, experiments so he's not just blowng hot air.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby BadgerJelly on October 15th, 2020, 10:26 pm 

Does he mention anything about the BENEFITS of being irrational? I was kind of hoping to touch on that.

In regards to the first post, my view is simple enough. I generally think it is best to ignore all the available options and think about certain attributes you want/need, and then choose in a fairly arbitrary manner from the items that meet the predetermined requirements.

The biggest problem is the ‘If only ...’ mental prison. The above actually makes this problem worse as you pick the ‘best option’ but may then find a ‘better’ option afterwards. This can be curtailed easily enough though if the focus is on the improved position rather than focusing on the inevitable event of making a choice that has limitations embedded within it.

Generally I guess stoicism works best in the moment. The joy of a bad choice merely allows our next choices in that area to be better informed (most likely).
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby neuro on November 11th, 2020, 8:26 am 

Badger,
I'm wandering whether you are interested in discussing about "taste" choices - what you like most - only, or you wish to extend the problem to ethical choices as well.

I am asking this because although the two domains seem quite different I see an analogy: liking, as well as judging, is a multidimensional task...

I believe that what you call analysis paralysis essentially is the result of our brain examining every situation under many different aspects; when we talk about liking, we may like something better because it is actually more pleasant, or because it makes us think of something else we like, or reminds us about a pleasant experience, arises an nice image in our mind, or a desire...
But this is not much different from the paralysis that blocks us in front of a true ethical dilemma: one course of action may appear more appropriate if we consider the "greater good", another if we consider the need of not harming anybody, another yet if we consider the scope alone or also the means to achieve it, and the choice may further vary depending on whether people we care about are involved, or our public/social image is involved, or our self image may be somehow affected.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby BadgerJelly on November 11th, 2020, 11:45 am 

Sleepy time ... reply tomorrow.
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Re: The Burden of Choice

Postby BadgerJelly on November 11th, 2020, 10:25 pm 

Neuro -

Absolutely! I do tend to generalise too much or go into detail too much ..l still looking for the middle ground more often than not.

I agree. I don’t see them as explicitly differentiated, other than in context usage. My ‘tastes’ are my tastes due to my ethical outlook as they’re part and parcel of my experiences in life and what guides me towards ‘otherness’ or away from it (the age old ‘try something new’ or ‘stick to what you know’ dichotomy). In terms of viewing humans as biological ‘machines’ I always tend towards these two guiding principles - and the benefit of happy accidents (hence my question about the ‘irrational’ above in reference to what turtle posted).

Anyway, blah blah ... something you touch on brings this to my favourite, and most annoying, question ... Time!? The ‘ethical’ point here encompasses our judgement in terms of immediate benefits against long term consequences, or vice versa. In that sense the number of options available to us can actually short-circuit a decision. Meaning the initial solution we’re addressing becomes buried under a plethora of possible solutions making the ‘choice’ the issue in order to avoid the underlying problem - a kind of ‘flight’ mechanism rather than a ‘fight’ mechanism.

The ‘greater good’ is merely another form of the immediate versus the long term as far as I can see? I have dealt with the issue of ‘ethics’ in a reasonably thorough way elsewhere: especially in terms of public perception and our ‘locked’ state within verbal thought: viewtopic.php?f=47&t=32281

Note: The point about acting differently depending on the company your in is certainly not something we’re fully conscious of. We may find ourselves biting our tongue, or using a different word, in order to ‘not offend’ rather than speaking ‘freely and openly’, as we’re on constant guard against conflict - and, so it seems to me, also seeking out ‘conflicts’ in one manner or another in order to broaden our appreciate of the world we’re in (as there are clear benefits for both). When there is harmony it is easy to settle on a ‘balanced’ view. When the world is a raging storm we grasp at whatever we can to work from (the ‘axis mundi’/‘weltenschuuang’: as I like to put it).

I did have such things in mind back then. The point being a means of avoiding ‘analysis paralysis’ due to having a mental map set out that allows for more efficient decision making by way of having delved into complex hypotheticals in the past - the use of the hypothetical is key for me when it comes to being honest with oneself (or moving towards being as honest as we can with ourselves: dangerous as this is, it looks worth the stress and strain).

Also, in some ways it may be beneficial to have multiple choices available IF they are relatively similar. I say this because if we make an arbitrary decision when there are multiple other options available we not likely to ‘regret’ our choice by comparing it to various other possible choices not taken, whereas if we made an ‘arbitrary’ choice between two or three items then this limited number of items is easy enough to remember AND we’re able to draw more distinctions between two or three individual items opening ourselves up to questions of ‘what if?’.
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