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.


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 23 2012: I find the tone of superiority in this discussion unpalatable. I am a busy person. When faced with a sampling of 24 jars of jam I would probably walk away because I assume (right or wrong) that it's going to take a long time to sample all of them or even to pick out the jams I'd like to try. Six is a bit easier to digest.
    The idea that you should choose the most expensive menu item because you don't have to pay is simply selfish.
    When I shop I'm not just shopping for me, there are three other family members whose taste and desires I have to consider. 1st choice- grow my own tomatoes. 2nd choice- I think Name brand but look for added salt and sugar. 3rd choice- price. If it takes more than 1-2 minutes to find the one I want I might choose to have salad instead and move on.
    Here's the clincher for me; when my husband asks where I'd like to eat. If I choose what I like I am positive he won't find anything on the menu he will eat (no sushi, no onions, no green stuff etc...). I am paralyzed every time. If I say Pizza Hut (for his sake) he feels insulted because I knows I don't like it. It's a very emotionally loaded decision and I hate it when he asks. I'd rather go to lunch with a friend who's taste is a closer match to mine.
    Calling people "sheep" because they go along with the crowd is akin to a quote by Albert Einstein, "Everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid." You have no idea the number of thoughts nor the content of thoughts going through a persons mind when they are required to make a decision.
    It might be interesting to see if this choice paralysis persists across cultures, or gender, or occupation. I think this might take you closer to the truth.
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      Jan 23 2012: on the other hand, i find the tone of selfishness in many discussions unpalatable. many people start with the premise that "i have a problem", and the goes on saying "so we need to solve it", and then ends like "despite how it hurts others".

      i refuse even hints to any sort of solution that consists of limiting or regulating free interaction of perfectly moral individuals in order to make a 3rd person happy. you don't have time to choose tomato? listen well. i don't care. it is your problem. can i help? tell me how, and i will think about it. but i rigidly and swiftly refuse any kind of aggression, coercion or limitation on my own behavior because that would be more suitable for you. do not throw your garbage in my garden!
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        Jan 23 2012: I'm not being rigid nor am I throwing my anything at you. I am simply relaying my experience as a paralytic shopper.
        The time it takes to make a choice is paralyzing.
        Considering the needs and desires of the people with whom I live can be paralyzing.
        Considering the contents of each selection can be paralyzing.
        Having to hone my conversation down to a list can be paralyzing.
        I only tried to address the question using the examples provided. I am being honest and forthright I'm sorry if you are not pleased. I'll try to make a more considerate choice next time.
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        Jan 24 2012: my proposal is aimed at answering the original question asked by the highly astute irascible Gisela McKay.
        1. I propose paralysis could be replaced by overwhelmed.
        2. I suggest that this study might be more revealing if done in a variety of cultures, occupations and with the genders separated, possibly age groups too.
        3. I suggest that the reasons people feel paralyzed are many but may boil down to being overwhelmed by the number of choices.
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          Jan 24 2012: that does not sound like a proposal. more like an explanation.

          i would like to point out something though. you say that paralysis follows the large number of choices. my problem with this is "follows". you present it like number of choices had a definite effect of paralysis. like the tilt of the earth causes seasons, and such. however, there is no such direct link. large number of choices CAN lead to paralysis. but not necessarily. and the solution is not reducing the number of choices, but to give people strategies to handle it.

          it is a mental pattern. it sounds as "X has bad effects. so we need to eliminate X". but this is not necessarily the logical conclusion. it just as could be "X has bad effects. we need some methods to counter those effects, so we can have X without problem". which method to use, depends on many factors, including the possible benefits of X.
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      Jan 23 2012: Not having enough time to sample all 24 doesn't preclude you from discovering if this brand's version of a flavour you already are familiar with is well made.

      Is there any reason that you actually have to stand there and taste every single one?

      I wouldn't - though more likely I would pick something that seemed new or innovative rather than strawberry or raspberry. I'd also rule out flavours I know I don't like in general. It's also highly unlikely that I would feel compelled to taste all six of the limited selection either.

      And sometimes living with other people with different tastes and dietary concerns just means buying multiple.

      Also the rule of dining etiquette that suggests you wait for the host to indicate the price range of the meal you order doesn't mean you are forced to eat exactly what s/he chooses. And it wasn't what I was perceiving was in play in that situation anyway. It sounded like they were following the clique leader as opposed to the person paying.

      (And whether I would or would not order it would really depend on the price difference between the two and who was doing the paying. Restaurants often put an expensive option on the menu to sell the second highest item. Given the behaviour of the others in the group, I wasn't going to comment on the rudeness of picking the most expensive item.)
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        Jan 24 2012: I, like you, would choose jams I had never tried before, also I'd have to sample the raspberry to see if the seeds were strained out. If they were I'd buy some for my dad who has such a hard time with his dentures and loves raspberries!
        Other than that I tend to steer clear of in-store samples altogether, all those people milling about and all those microbes mingling eeck.
        For ordering off the menu read John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, one of the most romantic dining scenes ever written and filled with wisdom. I really took that one to heart. I also tend to go low key when I'm feasting on an organizational dime. I want to make a good impression and also do not want to leave a bad one, tightrope I know. But I have been on the paying end of that scenario enough to know what I hope for and how it feels when people take advantage.
        I'm a planner. When I go shopping I generally have a short list of staples or ingredients I need to complete a meal and I'd rather save my sampling for dining with friends I trust.
        But there are certain items I dread shopping for; clothing, soap, seasonal gifts, anything for my sister, cars, gifts and toys for people I don't know well, and sometimes the meandering trip to the grocery with my mother-in-law. Maybe I'm not one of the folks who seize up often but I've had my moments.
        I love the question! Thank you for asking. It brings up a lot of other issues that I hadn't given much thought.
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          Jan 24 2012: I am with you on the gross-out factor of store samples.

          AS for the school menu at the restaurant, it seems likely that the limited selection means the school had already whittled down the options to what was in their budget. I have friends who get pissy if they think you are ordering something cheap to save them money -- and to be fair I am the same way. I would rather someone pick what they want to eat, not based on price.

          I kinda wish we could bring back the old-fashioned Ladies' Menu that had no prices on it.
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        Jan 24 2012: That's a great idea! I never would have thought of that. We have very few choices where we live but stil...hmmmmm. I think we could still do it.
        Thank you!
        "Thus I have become in his eyes as one bringing contentment." Song of Soloman V8, 14
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    Jan 22 2012: Please dont receive this the wrong way but who are you talking about, who is "they"?I think you would find that the majority of people are not interested in the inherent uniqueness or virtues of the food they eat.They may simply choose an upmarket restaurant based upon the fact they know they can count on being served better than average food.

    Your presented debates seems pretty judgemental and even consumed by expression of your own opinion. The Waitress/Waiter who works nights to cover college fees will often not be a wine critique like yourself or interested in the inherent beauty of your selection, and in that case, they wouldnt even know where to start with their choice..Chances are theyd probably just pick something near the top of the list, because they feel they'd be assured quality. Someone offering you a wine is not typically going to indulge you with an expression of words that describe the traits of it...thats a critics job.

    Also, Im not sure what you were trying to make clear with your reference to Pizza Hut..but people often dont dine at Pizza hut to discern nuances in the base or sauce, they CHOOSE it because they are SURE without doubt they'll receive the meal they did last time, something that is inherently important to some.

    I agree that people (who cant decide) will select an expensive meal on the menu to appear to have status and taste, but I'm confused with the last part of your debate wherr you reference being able to detect Intrinsic Value. Intrinsic value is completely subject to opinion of the one making the judgement.For example, Im sure a geat deal of people love the intrinsic value of fast food in terms of it's stable cost, repeated consistentcy, time efficienct and cheap delivery. These people may lack the distinguished tongue of those virtuos connoisseurs that aim for excellence, theyre still making a choice for something they desire though, something they value in thats relevant to their frame of reference
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      Jan 22 2012: Ah, it is in response to the proposition that we need less choice in our lives because a certain segment of the population suffers from "choice paralysis", thus the rest of us should be penalized.
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        Jan 22 2012: This isnt making sense to me.
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        Jan 23 2012: just because a retail outlet chooses to limit their selection of merchandise does not mean "the rest of us" are penalized. There are many ways to customize nearly any product. Maybe "the rest of us" are simply too lazy to do it our selves. Instead we prefer to burden everybody else with endless decisions about things that ought to be simple.
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          Jan 23 2012: Customization at the level of one or two is always more expensive than at the bulk level.

          What was a matter of a few cents before has now become a larger cost downloaded onto the person who would have been perfectly able to make a choice because of the inability of others to do the same.

          Also, let's use the example of ice cream again. How, precisely, would one "customize" a selection of five basic ice creams into say, Tiger Tail? Not that I like the flavour, but the claim is lacking.

          What's wrong with the indecisive among us learning to pick the most basic option if they don't actually care/can't distinguish anyway?
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    Jan 22 2012: I disagree, i don't believe that people have no taste.
    But they have different taste and it's just fine.
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      Jan 22 2012: People who have taste - good, bad, or ugly - can make a decision. We're talking about the people who are paralyzed by "too much choice".
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        Jan 22 2012: Ok so if i may, i'll tell you a story that happened to me a few months ago.

        So we're two groups of the same class, we all go to a restaurant and all the food is paid by the school, nobody has to pay for what they order. We get a menu with not much choices, about 5 to 8 choices total. We start ordering and my group, they took the cheaper choice on the menu "fries and steak" that's it, they all took the same choice, ok, my turn comes, i took the sushi plate, the expensive choice on the menu because i don't pay.

        Nobody really cared about my choice until i get the damn thing in front of me, then the other guys in the group all started to complain about how they can't stand sushi, how could i choose this over steak and fries, that it come from overseas, the guy next to me said "i ate that crap one time and vomited it all when i came back home" blah blah blah, BS after BS after BS they have been complaining about my choice during all the meal.

        And i was just thinking like "steak and fries!.. why would i choose the same thing as everyone else, plus, i could do that myself", and it happened to be the cheapest thing on the menu while nobody has to pay for what they order".

        So perhaps the people with no taste, simply want to avoid triggering the "complaining fashion" of the others, so they ask what the others like and then they avoid their complains by choosing whatever please the others over what they personally like and they end up saving the day by doing this.

        Ok it might not be true in every situation, but i guess it might be in some.
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          Jan 22 2012: Still confused by what this has to do with the concept of "too much choice". In this case, someone still had to make the initial decision that the sheep followed.

          If anything, it reinforces the idea that they either cannot or aren't willing to identify what they personally want.
  • Feb 1 2012: It does offer an explanation-- our two-party political system in the US clearly a manufactured choice. It is this appearance of democracy that goes a long way towards appeasing the outrage that we've seen behind the Arab Spring uprisings.
  • Jan 29 2012: As someone that has somewhat fallen into the rabbit hole of audiophiles (by progressively purchasing more expensive audio equipment over the years)...

    I can readily tell the difference between equipment...

    But truth be told, I can't tell if I prefer the 'better' equipment more or less. I simply know they're different.

    Maybe in a life that thrives on experiential gains, that's really all that matters?
  • 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?
  • Jan 24 2012: When I don't like the taste of something I gag, it's been this way since I was born. My mom says I rejected just about every formula she tried and I'm still very picky. Nobody has been able to explain this to me yet but I do know it's not in my head, it's in my taste buds.
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      Jan 24 2012: Then clearly you wouldn't have that paralysis issue because you are likely to be quite particular about what you want. It is interesting, though. The gag reflex isn't usually triggered that far forward in the mouth.
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    Jan 24 2012: Here are some observations from an article I read:

    "We likely make dozens of decisions daily. Many are of little lasting consequence. Some, though, can have a profound impact on our lives. To progress as individuals (emotionally, spiritually, etc..), ....we should make decisions that reflect our own convictions, not those of someone else."

    "When we are indecisive, those around us may conclude that we are not really convinced of our beliefs and therefore are easily influence."

    "Fear may paralyze us-fear of making the wrong decision, fear of failure, or fear of appearing foolish to others." Let me add here Gisela, that people who have intrinsic values are not exempt from feeling paralyzed when it is time to make certain decisions.

    'Will we always make the right decision? No. "All of us make mistakes."

    The article went on to provide steps to help make good decisions:
    1. Avoid Being Presumptuous
    2. Do Research
    3. Pray for Wisdom (spiritually minded people)
    4. Make the Decision
    5. Implement the Decision
    6. Review and Adjust

    And, even after implementing the above steps, one can STILL make the wrong decision. So then, what next?

    I like what Elizabeth Gilbert said in an interview with IQ2 (youtube has the video), quoting her mom, she said:

    "Regardless of what you choose today, subsequently information may arise that makes you realize you made the wrong decision. But please, do not abuse yourself because of the decision you made; when all you knew is what you know today."

    From personal observation, I have also seen the effects of uninformed decision making. Many, sad to say, do not even realize they have choices available to them. They have the mentality that "might as well just go with the first available option"......and they are not interested in seeking further information. The consequences are oftentimes disastrous.

    If we have friends who have "choice paralysis", we can choose to help them. Don't you think??
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      Jan 24 2012: Sounds like an interesting article.

      To address a couple of points, I didn't say that the person didn't have intrinsic value(s), I said they weren't picking the object based on _its_ intrinsic value -- rather on the impression it would make on others. It's the same reason why many people experience buyer's remorse or why the joy people feel in a purchase diminishes quickly.

      If you purchase the large screen TV because you like to watch movies at home and take joy in the watching, then you are more likely to find pleasure in it longer than if you bought it to impress your friends, and now a newer sleeker model has been released.

      Also, it is one thing to feel choice paralysis over which course of cancer treatment or what job to take, it is another thing to be frozen at a display of tomato sauce. I'm not really sure how to help someone who experiences the latter except by making a recommendation, which also seems like adding to the problem because they would just be substituting my judgment where they should be using their own. :/
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        Jan 24 2012: Got it.....I misread your intro....yes, you are absolutely right.

        I remember someone speaking of young people, and their lack of appreciation for money, say:

        "Young people today know the price of everything, but the value of nothing."

        It is important to know the value of the item you are purchasing, and not just get it because your neighbor got one. That contributes to being happy with the choice you made.

        And, let me share what happens to me at grocery stores. Many spanish speaking shoppers will stop me to ask what certain items are....I end up educating them on what their choices are. But I steer clear of choosing for them. This happens also at the check out counter. The cashier will often ask me, what is that? And I'll educate them as to what kind of vegetable it is, or fruit, or other good. And if noone is in line behind me, I'll explain how to cook it...sometimes I'll jot down the recipe, or refer them to an internet site.

        The hardest people to be around are "fickle" people......they can't make up their mind, and when you try to help them see what their choices are, they just don't get it.

        Gisela, this is a great conversation!!!!!!
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    Jan 23 2012: Why should the 99% have to "learn" how to make considered decisions simply so the "discriminate" 1% can have their ice cream in every flavor they desire? You can buy an ice cream maker (electric) and make your own tiger tail. It is a considerable waste of resources to cater to the whims of the few.
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      Jan 23 2012: because that is the world we live in. everyone has to rise up to the challenges.

      the kind of thinking you represent is responsible for the stalled progress we observe today. why would we learn new ways, modern ways? we just want our old lives. internet? BAN! children can google their homework? BAN! people can download stuff? SOPA in their face! people don't understand investment schemes? GOVERNMENT CONTROL!

      what is the source of that laziness?? instead of living in the new world, using its benefits, and learning its new ways, we want to live the old world? we want to stop change, because it is comfortable? people! wake up already! the new things are GOOD! that's why they are developed! if you want the good things, you have to accept the burden that comes with it.

      but listen. fine. you can live in the cave and eat raw meat, i don't care. but please don't try to hold the rest of us back. i lived in a time when we had two kind of milk, red and blue. i'm OKAY with a hundred brands of milk, so go whine to your psychologist, reverend or coach and leave me alone.
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        Jan 24 2012: New things are created by creative people whether they are good or bad is a completely subjective call. I don't need a cell phone so I don't have one. I do use the computer and internet for my own enjoyment and for research for my art.
        I am however very concerned about our environment and the vast out of control wast piles we are creating which are terrible. Call me a cave-dweller if you like but I have decided to severely limit myself and the things I buy. I chose instead to make and do for myself and my family, to recycle as much as I can and to encourage others to do the same.
        I don't feel the need to be an unbridled consumer and I don't feel this makes me less progressive. You and I just have different ideas about things. That's O.K. No?
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          Jan 24 2012: That's an interesting leap from variety to wastefulness. If a company produces 100,000 cans of spaghetti sauce, how much does it matter whether they are all the same flavour or 10 flavours? I understand there will be an incremental use of energy switching the machines over, but is that really going to be the factor that we're using to decide the outcome of this topic?

          I don't have a cell phone either. A decade ago I was "gadget girl" the subject of a CBC National piece on "are we too connected". At the time, according to me there was no such thing (the interview is still online, though not the whole video piece). Now, not so much. And what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

          I think the idea of declaring that "I can't make a choice therefore we should eliminate options for everyone," is akin to saying, "Math is hard. Let's ban everything other than addition and subtraction."

          Throwing in other issues to confound the topic won't fly here.
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      Jan 23 2012: Clearly they are and have been selling tiger tail or they would take it off the menu.

      Companies don't make a flavour or scent or whatever the customization for altruistic reasons, they do it because there is a market for it. And yes, if they take it away, a goodly percent of that market will just go to their second choice, enough so that it would offset any losses of those who jumped ship.

      What I don't get is why this paralysis happens even after you KNOW what type pleases most of the people in the house. It seems to me the difficulty should happen once, maybe twice, and then you've made your decision. Or buy the freakin' basic version - pretend like they've already stripped the line down to that one choice.
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      Jan 23 2012: Also, nice attempt to make this about class. You're not 99% of the population, you're about 60% -- and it spans socio-economic levels (or we wouldn't be talking about bottled spaghetti sauce, would we?).
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        Jan 24 2012: I was talking about cans! I don't use the bottled stuff ; it's too expensive, loaded with salt and sugar and I can make a better sauce from c=scratch1 Sorry. My husband and I live on less than $600.00 a month. We have no health insurance, but neither do we have car payments, rent, or mortgage payments. I have a degree, he does not and he is our primary earner at this time. We do not have the luxury of paralysis.
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          Jan 24 2012: Cans, bottles, it's still prepared sauce --not exactly a 1% issue.
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          Jan 24 2012: Also, you should be especially careful of canned tomato products -- the high acid makes them leach BPA from the can linings even more than non-acidic foods.
  • Jan 23 2012: It's hard to develop a sense of taste when you have so many options. How can you honestly say you know the best kind of tomato sauce unless you've tried all of them? What happens if you want to expand your horizons?

    You may be right. It could be that people who cannot make a decision do have no taste. That doesn't mean they will never have taste.
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      Jan 23 2012: why would you want the best? why don't you pick a new one from time to time, and be excited about the new experience? instead of anxiety, why not excitement? what can you lose?
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          Jan 24 2012: you win the chance to taste the very best! if you know what the best is, you can taste it only once, and then you are done. you can not taste something twice. but if you don't know which is the best, you have a chance every time you try one to taste the best. plus you will never even know! that's what i call fun!
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        Jan 24 2012: taste is both acquired and inborn. inborn in the sense that we all have our preferences. acquired in the sense that we need to learn to enjoy certain stuff. there are simple stuff that are easy to enjoy. that's why many people likes pizza, pop music and landscapes. these are the things that tickle our most basic and instinctive senses, like the love of fat or sugar or simple tunes or forests. but there are things that are hard to enjoy. like wine, blue cheese, opera or fine art. we need practice to enjoy these things. there is a path to them, they are not readily available.

        about choosing. there is an experiment devised by dan ariely. it consists of a series of pairs of shapes, from which you have to choose the bigger. you have a certain amount of time, and at the end, the total chosen area is summarized. some shapes are very different in size, others are almost the same. after you take the test, you get the average time you took to choose from the very different shapes and from the similar sized shapes. obviously, most people spend more time on the similar shapes. and then the question is: was it worth it? was it a good decision to hesitate on a choice that does not matter much, instead of moving on to more important decisions? do you really need the 99% solution if you already have the 90% solution?

        conclusion: grab that freaking mayonnaise already. does not matter which. move on with your life.
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        Jan 24 2012: i grew up in a socialist country, so i know what is the lack of choices like. for me, transition to capitalism was not stressful at all. but neither to anyone i know. we were excited to have many brands of bread, milk, tv programs, whatever. in a 5 year timespan, wine culture appeared out of nothing. i can't imagine why would it bother anyone.
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    Jan 22 2012: Imagine going into Baskin & Robbins and instead of there being 31 flavours, you get 5. And your favourite is no longer among them all because some other guy (or 10 different people) stood there for 10 minutes then walked out because he couldn't choose.

    What makes someone walk away rather than tasting them or, having tasted them, leaves them still incapable of choosing? Why can't they say, "I'll try this one today," and then take another on the next occasion?

    Why do pigeons fly up in the air en masse when they hear a hawk cry instead of hiding? Is it the same response in a hawk faced with 30 potential dinner targets that someone who can't choose between 24 flavours of jam experiences?
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      Jan 22 2012: tesco puts up a big sign in every row of similar products: "best offer". similar signs would help greatly. "popular choice". "most purchased". "food magazine choice" and so on. i wonder why malls don't do that already on greater scale. maybe they actually know that stuff get sold anyway? in that case, everyone can shut the hell up, the problem is nonexistent.
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      Jan 22 2012: To suggest Baskin Robbnis/Anyone selling anything,would decide to minimise available products from their range because someone purchased nothing at all is to imply they are mind readers. If anything, they'd offer more flavours/products.
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        Jan 22 2012: Ah, but the marketing consultants are suggesting taking choice away.

        It's the big trend in recommendations, it seems. "Simplification" which has the secondary benefit of reduced infrastructure in making the alternate versions.

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        Jan 23 2012: @Anja - they seriously had moose steak? I know a couple of game meat distributors, but I have yet to see even venison on a lunch counter menu. That's pretty cool.
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    Jan 22 2012: What if "sociopath", and "person of extremely discerning taste", are actually less far apart than one might imagine? I tend to think that most people, when making a decision in public, experience a fight, within themselves, between choosing the option they believe projects their best image to the world, and choosing the option they enjoy most. Maybe sociopaths have that same conflict, but make the conscious choice to ignore it.

    By wasting none of their intellectual rescources worrying about what's popular, they make more informed decisions, but... of course, this comes with a drawback, when they're wrong about something verifiable, they don't have the tools to learn from the wisdom of others. There was actually an interesting book recently claiming that bi-polar disorder was the "leadership disease", because they tend to be capable of the same cold and calculating decisions of a sociopath when they need to, but, they eventually are attacked by their empathy and compassion when left alone. Maybe no one isn't sociopaths are just better actors than other stoics, and intellectuals.

    That ability to temporarily detach from emotion, would be helpful in taste as well. Many people are overwhelmed by "DROOL... Butter... Fat... Salt... Sugar... llllallallal". A foodie has overcome that emotion, much in the same way a sociopath overcomes compassion to make necessary choices as a general or ruler. A normal person might let themselves be paralysed by the fact that their decisions cause death, where a "sociopath" just acts... for good or ill.

    Interesting topic.
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      Jan 22 2012: Interesting, you seem to be suggesting that the cause and effect I proposed are reversed.

      I must ponder this a bit.

      How do you think it would apply to the case Maxime suggested, where one person chooses, then a bunch go along with that choice and then ridicule the person who doesn't follow the crowd? Why would they begrudge someone making a decision?
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        Jan 25 2012: Once the first decision is made... "Steak and Fries"... The lemmings start thinking "I'm a Steak and fries kind of guy/gal. I fit in... I'm cool. Let's make this easy for the waitress, we're steak and fries kind of people."

        The sociopath, or supertaster... Sees people doing that... They see a decision becoming popular, and they want to be part of the crowd... but, ultimately, they say "I'm not a steak and fries person... I'm a sushi person... be whatever the hell you want to be, but I'm eating sushi".

        The people making fun of the sushi person, in my worldview, are the people that actually wanted sushi, and are now angry at themselves, for trying to fit in by ordering steak and fries. So, the people enforcing the culture of steak and fries... are actually the people who like sushi, but like being popular more. They are trying to take advantage of the cultural choice they made. They are trying to prove to the collective, that "steak and fries was the way to go, this other person is weird"... They want the sociopath/supertaster, to feel bad, about doing the right thing... because they feel bad, about doing the wrong thing, and misery loves company.
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      Jan 22 2012: Don't abandon your search for personal inferiority so easily. Keep looking, you will find something wrong with yourself!
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          Jan 22 2012: I think this is simply called ignorance.
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          Jan 23 2012: I have listened to Gisela, thank you. I am intrigued more by your comment. Your search for areas in your life that have not yet reached perfection is probably not hampered by paralysis, Ms. Theissen, but by vanity. QUOTES: "The only cure for vanity is laughter, and the only fault that's laughable is vanity." (-Henri Bergson). "This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.) (-St. Augustine)
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          Jan 22 2012: Sorry, I was implying that believing one has no faults is simply ignorant.
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          Jan 23 2012: Not, it wasnt an 'over-apolgising' sorry....I was saying sorry because your reply led me to believe I'd failed to make my point, hence i reworded it, and reposted it.
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          Jan 23 2012: Just exploring the relationship between having high self-esteem and having healthy self-esteem

          Sounds more like an over-inflated ego.
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    Jan 21 2012: okay, but what is the point? it does not help people choosing shampoo or steak sauce. i suppose there are "superchoosers", who can detect "intrinsic values" better than others. so what? what about the other guys out there? there are some who can dance or sing with virtually no effort, no formal training. but we (they, whatever) still organize courses for the less lucky that need to learn it. for those who are paralyzed by too many choices, good companies can offer differently structured services for better results. such studies can help with that.

    i'm actually very much happy with ms iyengar's second talk. finally we are not condemning the multitude of options, but trying to come up with methods to help people make those choices. i was very troubled with the possible implications of both the other talks you attached, plus iyengar's previous one. both of them can be used to call for more "regulation" of our lives, as companies are "too stupid to serve the people right". alas, both speakers indeed have something like that in mind, though their research does not support that at all. but this talk of iyengar finally moves to the right direction. do not travel back in time. new problems need new solutions. we don't need to stop progress. we need to learn how to live in the new world we have.
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      Jan 22 2012: I was hoping to argue about WHY these people can`t make a choice.

      I understand they are the largest portion of the population (these same people seem also afraid to follow their own dreams/goals).

      Teaching them how people who are able to choose may or may not work. Creating spaces for them with the limited lines may be a way to address the issue, but perhaps understanding the underlying issue would point to a better solution.
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        Jan 22 2012: oh, i missed that intent.

        maybe related, but came to my mind, so i will tell anyway. i've got this idea some time ago, that given any psychological test in which most humans fail miserably, why don't we focus on those participants who don't? we could conduct a series of such experiments like the milgram experiment, this 6/24 jars of jam experiment, etc, and see how being the exception in one of them correlates with being an exception in another. if correlates, we can find a group of people that most likely does not fall in such traps. then we need to dissect these people's mind to see what's in it. maybe we can learn useful strategies for life.

        dear gisela! we need your mind dissected for the benefit of mankind! okay, kidding, but the rest was serious.
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          Jan 22 2012: That's a great idea. (Not dissecting my brain, the other ;-)

          It would be an interesting thing to find out, just how often the outliers correlate across the different experiments. Not sure how you keep them unaware of what's being tested at a certain juncture, though.

          Why do you think some people can't make a decision?
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          Jan 25 2012: Wow, this is a very interesting point... One, which I have a very strange, and pretentious answer to... Smart people, and sociopaths.

          The smarter you are, the more likely you are to realize that the Milgram experiment is testing you, and the more likely you are to be confident in your decision to stop the experiment.

          The more of a sociopath you are... The less likely you are to care about the lab coat, or the "importance of the experiment", or... basically... what the hell anyone thinks about you. So the more likely, in theory, you would be, to do the "compassionate" thing.

          It would be incredibly intriguing to me, to do research on whether or not people who stopped giving electrocutions, have sociopathic leanings... Also, do they have high IQs? They have already proven, that people with high IQ's are more likely to experience depression, mania, anxiety, and various other "psychological problems"... Maybe sociopathy just got added to the list.
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        Jan 22 2012: i don't know, but i have an possible case that leads to it: oversocialization. i believe that in some cases, people don't dare to choose on their own, but try to fit in. they just try to do what other people do. and if they are not sure what is that, they try to be as mediocre as possible, not to stick out. a few decades of this, starting at age 8-10, and your ability to choose is completely atrophied.
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          Jan 24 2012: Children do enter this world with a whole new open mindset and they do have the "intrinsic" ability to discern from what they encounter. And I couldn't agree more that society strips them of this ability....used to happen around age 5 but now starting at age 1-2, if not at birth!!

          Nevertheless this child grows, and it retains intrinsic intelligence, initially it is faced with two choices: in the words of Denis Waitley;
          "There are two primary choices in life: 
to accept conditions as they exist, or 
accept the responsibility for changing them." All else follows. lol.
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    Jan 21 2012: Gisela! Are you challenging the long-standing rule of human behaviour stating that there is no accounting for taste?
    Have you eaten haggus? Have you sampled a rotted duck egg in the Phillippines? I threw-up both times, but there are many people who genuinely love such things. Sorry about your affliction. Thanks for sharing.
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      Jan 22 2012: No, I wasn't arguing that there are differences in taste, rather that some are incapable of actually making the discernment at all.

      Choosing to eat haggis is still making a choice.
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        Jan 22 2012: I'm confused, as is often the case. Are you saying some people are incapable of choosing what to eat? Or, are you saying some people are incapable of determining what they like and what they do not like after they have eaten?
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          Jan 22 2012: I realize now that people are missing that this is in response to the videos, which claim that we need to limit the amount of options available to prevent choice paralysis.
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        Jan 22 2012: Indeed, i was missing the point. Now that i know, i'd say, it might be a suitable solution in certain area but not for the same reasons.

        Rather than limiting the amount of choice to prevent choice paralysis, we should limit the amount of choice to prevent waste.

        But it's not the only possible solution, but that's for another debate.