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Gisela McKay

President and Co-Founder, pixcode

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On choice paralysis: Most people have no taste and thus cannot make a decision on their own

EDIT: Please note, this is in Debates. I fully expect people to argue against the premise -- which is that we do _not_ need less choice. Watch the videos, at least the Sheena Iyengar one to know what this is about.

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I have observed, as a foodie (and as a supertaster - which sounds like a magic power but actually kinda sucks) that most people really only seem have taste buds so they can tell when milk is bad.

When I say things like "this wine has notes of rosemary" they seem to either think I am just being a pretentious twit (and making it up), or they nod agreeably but you can tell they have no idea what you are talking about.

(Since foodies tend to cluster, I have plenty of friends who can detect these things).

They go to restaurants because someone else told them it was the place to go, and they order dishes that someone else recommended, but the nuances, really are lost. (This is the only thing I can think of that explains things like Pizza Hut, which has possibly the worst tasting sauce on the planet.)

This lack of actual preference/ability to discern extends then to purchasing things that other people desire: They are simply substituting direct happiness with the object itself with happiness in having caused envy or in feeling successful at having been able to purchase the desirable object. (Or at least not feeling failure at having picked the "wrong" thing.)

These are the people paralyzed by choice. (They are also unduly influenced by advertising.)

People who can actually detect intrinsic value are not thus paralyzed (nor, I suspect, are sociopaths who do not actually have an emotional tie to the outcome, which would explain the number of them in high-ranking positions -- they can make the expedient choice without the paralysis).

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  • Jan 27 2012: I love this topic, Gisela.. and I may have some interesting complications to it.

    1) I can taste the difference between different kinds of water (I mean different varieties of bottled water, for example).
    2) I really don't have any distinct taste.
    3) I wholeheartedly agree-- often the things that I want are solely because I am aware that other people want them and, somehow, it says something about me that I am able to obtain them relative to that ability in others.
    4) I'm very certain that choice is something we demand-- and don't really care about. It's only important to us that we've had the experience of choosing something, regardless of how that choice was made.
    5) I am thoroughly uninfluenced by advertising-- I hate advertising and will, in fact, avoid products because of their advertising.
    6) Things do not have any intrinsic value. Even gold only has a value because we all agree that it does.
    7) Sociopaths get to high-ranking positions not because of their expedience in making decisions but because they lack sufficient empathy to worry about the impacts of their decisions, which our (forgive me) capitalist society values.

    With all of that out of the way, I more agree with you than disagree-- most people do not know why they choose what they choose-- and they will make up a reason to justify their choice very quickly.
    • Jan 29 2012: does that explain why voters vote for people that are totally inappropriate to manage us?

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