What if too much choice is bad for us? Is it possible many modern ills can be laid at the feet of our unbridled options and their consequences? Could it be that this uncertainty we’re feeling is down to there being too many decisions? Perhaps, instead of liberating us, all these decisions we have to make oppress us instead.
Are we living in a tyranny of choice?
The term ‘Tyranny of Choice’ is not mine (I wish). Instead, it was coined by the psychologist Barry Schwartz. The idea, as he explains in an article, is that while we believe as a society that more choice is better, research shows that’s not necessarily true. For many, more choice creates less well-being.
The reason that some experience a fall in well-being is down to something Schwartz calls ‘maximizing’. Mind you, we don’t all do this. Some of us are ‘satisficers’ – or willing to go with the first option that satisfies our criteria. So, if a satisficer is buying toothpaste they’ll grab the first box that satisfies their conditions – say one that says ‘extra fresh’ on the label.
For maximizers that’s not enough, though. They’re after the best. So, even when they find one product that is good enough they keep going. Then, after they’ve found several, they’ll compare them. As you can probably guess, the more products there are, the harder their choice becomes. How do you decide how different dimensions compare? For example, how do flavor, quality, cleaning power, if it was made ethically, price, and size compare when buying toothpaste?
Continue reading The Tyranny of Choice and Its Repercussions
India is a funny place. It can be both indescribably beautiful and hell on earth – often at the same time. It’s polluted, difficult, engaging and breathtaking. About ten years ago I spent six of the best months of my life there. At the end, I was so frustrated I swore I’d never go back. Considering our recent escapades, I guess the universe means to hold me to that promise.
I recently wrote how my girlfriend’s non-European passport has made it difficult for us to stay in the Schengen long-term. As we had to leave again and since we’d already spent two years in South America, we decided to try India this time around. I mean, like I wrote in my portfolio, I travel not just because the world is beautiful, but also to better understand human nature.
And India is different. It’s a world apart. I mean, while the rest of the world has embraced indoor plumbing, the Indians have to resort to publicly shaming people to get them to use them. I know, right?
But to get in you need to get a visa. I bet you can see where this is going.
Continue reading Why I hate India And Why You Should Care
Have you also noticed the teeth gnashing in intellectual circles? Just check out serious magazines like The New Yorker, Scientific American and The Economist. They’re all talking about how we’re not half as logical as we think we are. And with good reason. The pile of research about the subject is getting bigger by the day.
- There is cognitive dissonance. This says that if we hold two beliefs that are contradictory, we’ll distort one of them until they once more get along. Often – like I discussed in my article 3 Big Mental Mistakes – we prefer distorting the evidence rather than our dearly held beliefs.
Then you’ve got the confirmation bias. It makes us disregard evidence that contradicts our position while paying extra attention to the stuff that confirms it. Heck, we even forget events that contradict our held beliefs!
As if that wasn’t enough, there is the backfire effect. Here when you show people evidence that their core beliefs hold no water, they don’t change their minds. Instead, they come to believe more strongly in their original positions.
Continue reading Why We Resist Change, How to Convince People and Cultural Antibodies
We all know about those horrible ‘isms’. You’ve got racism, sexism, ageism, and antisemitism. There is ableism, ethnocentrism, and heterosexism. They all reduce a complex person down to one trait and then use it to box that person in or even oppress them.
We should fight them wherever they rear their heads.
The thing is, while these isms receive a lot of attention, one of the most prevalent ways we discriminate doesn’t get any. It affects billions and yet is barely discussed. It doesn’t even have a name.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about discriminating against people based on where they were born, or – as I call it – locationism. (I’d have preferred ‘birthism’ but unfortunately the very similar ‘birtherism’ has already been taken).
Continue reading The Unmentioned ‘Ism’ That Limits Billions Of Lives
We don’t find our path. It finds us. Chris Haulmark learned this lesson the hard way. By most standards he had it made. He had a good job, children and a marriage. And sure, he dreamed of seeing the world, but that plan was on the backburner. “I thought I’d get to all that when I retired.”
Then his father died far too young at the age of 54. The resulting shockwaves reverberated through Chris’ life and knocked down his foundation. As he dealt with the sorrow of the sudden loss he started questioning everything.
“My father had worked all his life for his retirement, never to get there. I started to wonder how I would feel if that happened to me. From there I started wondering if this was the life for me. Was I living life to its full potential? Was I all I could be? If I ended up where my father was, would it fill me with regrets?”
For a time he wrestled with dark thoughts like these. He kept going back and forth between his commitments and his desire to see what was out there and – equally important – what was inside him. He couldn’t decide which way to jump.
So his children finally pushed him.
Continue reading Road Interview Chris Haulmark, Former Wanderer And Current Candidate for Congress
“It’s been incredibly hard to teach them conservation,” The caregiver tells me. “The local people don’t get it. ‘Why should we conserve?’ They ask me. ‘Our ancestors have been living like this for centuries and the jungle always provided.’” And on one level that argument makes sense. The Amazon did provide.
Of course, on another level, the argument doesn’t. Their ancestors didn’t kill half as many animals and so the jungle had the opportungropuity to replenish itself.
That changed. The reason? A mixture of innovation and traditions.
- Technologies like guns and motor boats allow the people of the Amazon to travel farther and kill more effectively.
- Medicine allows more people to survive, even while their ideas about how many children they should have hasn’t changed.
- Tourism and technology offer new ways for people to earn a living. But of course, those people (and the tourists) still need to eat. So hunters – many of who still believe the jungle is infinite – go out more often and kill more animals.
All this is causing an unprecedented strain on the environment. Animals that were common only a little while ago have disappeared. Plenty of guides told us how alligators, sloths, and monkeys used to live on the edge of town only a few years before. The only animals we saw while there were insects and monkeys. And we only saw the latter because we visited a sanctuary (where I met the caregiver who explained all this to me).
Continue reading The Myths Of The Noble Savage And The Inevitable March Of Progress (And How They May Destroy Life As We Know It)
No doubt you’re halfway to packing your bag and booking tickets to Canada. It doesn’t look like you’ll be alone. Many have said they’ll get out of here with a Trump victory. And why not Canada? It’s a beautiful country.
At the same time, there is a lot more world than just Canada. Have you considered seeing more of it? After all, plenty of research shows that travel is good for you and this might well be the perfect opportunity. After all, the inconceivable happened. Donald Trump won. The world as we know it as irrevocably changed.
So why not use this as an excuse to make a change in your life? Heck, at least you leaving has a chance to work out for the best. What’s more, it’s a lot easier than you may think. I’ve given up the steady life for a life on the road on three separate occasions and never found it all that hard.
The biggest problem with heading off into the wide open world? That’s the fear, plain and simple.
Continue reading WTF? He Won! Quick, How Do I Get Out Of Here?