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
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
“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)
I don’t talk much about my past. I don’t like doing it. You could say I’m a private person. Besides, to me, ideas are far more interesting than I am. That’s why rarely use my stories in my writing. Yeah, I get they’re great literary devices. But there are enough tricks and techniques that I don’t feel the need to put myself on display like that.
Somehow, it feels exhibitionistic or self-indulgent.
Today I’ll make an exception. That’s because other literary devices won’t let me get my message across. After all, who is going to listen to yet another glib this-is-how-you-should-live-your-life post if I’m not personally invested? The internet is filled to the brim with those types of texts and most make about as much difference as digging in a desert.
That won’t do for this article. Here it is important to me I have an impact. Otherwise, I suspect a friend (and those like him) will follow the same path I did. For, as George Santayana’s said, “Those who do not know history’s mistakes are doomed to repeat them.”
Continue reading My Life As A Warning To A Friend And A Whole Generation
Picture by Etienne Koch.
This is the Judgment Fairy! Isn’t he pretty? Yes, he does have green hair, but don’t judge. It isn’t some statement of rebellion. He was born that way.
His whole family is a bit different. They’re all in the fairy trade. Like his sister the tooth fairy and his mom, who you might know from the Cinderella stories, he does his job at the edge of sight. But where his sis loves enamel and his mom has a thing for pumpkins, his interest lies elsewhere.
His obsession is those who judge.
Continue reading The Judgment Fairy
I keep running into some incarnation of this question in nomad circles. Only this week it reared up again in a Facebook group dedicated to digital nomads. In this case, the question was, ‘when digital nomads outsource their work over the internet to low-paying countries are they exploiting them? Isn’t that damaging the digital nomad image?’ The discussion got heated. Nasty things were said.
To be fair, the original poster didn’t frame the question quite like that. Sure, they used a question mark, but it wasn’t actually a question. For them, the issue was already resolved. Now it was just time for everybody to agree. Low wages weren’t fair. They were exploitive. The digital nomad movement was betraying its roots. Anybody that disagreed with them was a small-minded greedy capitalist.
As you can expect, many people – particularly those who outsourced work to low-paying countries – weren’t happy. Who likes to get judged, right? Some of retorted with well-reasoned arguments. Others were nasty, brutish and small-minded – thereby proving the original poster right about that part.
Continue reading Are Digital Nomads Exploiting The Locals?
Is the house on fire? Are we at war? Is there an earthquake? Quick, what do I do first, grab my work laptop or wake my girlfriend? As I chide myself for thinking that (what can I say, protecting one’s words is a writer’s knee-jerk reaction) the nails-on-chalkboard sound comes again.
It shreds the last cobwebs of sleep. With a groan, I slump back onto my pillow.
It’s just the Colombians returning. You’ll always know when that happens. The older sister will always unfailingly remind you how funny she thinks everything is. She greets even the most mundane pronouncement with pearls of laughter.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great attitude during the day. It is a great deal harder to appreciate at 3 o’clock, though, when behind closed eyelids you were having tea with the Mad Hatter.
Continue reading Echoes of Laughter: Reflecting on a Vagabond Existence
Anybody that’s traveled for a while knows the feeling. You arrive at some stunning location that should have you slack-jawed in wonder and you find it barely moves you. You meet yet another fascinating person with great stories to tell, but you can’t muster the interest. You feel lonely in a bar full of friendly people who are just dying for a conversation.
You get somewhere new and all you can think about is the place and the people you left behind.
Continue reading Lonely in Paradise