Why So Many People Can’t Make Decisions

I wasn’t sure whether to post this article, or not … from the Wall Street Journal:

Some people meet, fall in love and get married right away. Others can spend hours in the sock aisle at the department store, weighing the pros and cons of buying a pair of wool argyles instead of cotton striped.

decisions

Source: Martorell (CC)

Seeing the world as black and white, in which choices seem clear, or shades of gray can affect people’s path in life, from jobs and relationships to which political candidate they vote for, researchers say. People who often have conflicting feelings about situations—the shades-of-gray thinkers—have more of what psychologists call ambivalence, while those who tend toward unequivocal views have less ambivalence.

High ambivalence may be useful in some situations, and low ambivalence in others, researchers say. And although people don’t fall neatly into one camp or the other, in general, individuals who tend toward ambivalence do so fairly consistently across different areas of their lives.

For decades psychologists largely ignored ambivalence because they didn’t think it was meaningful. The way researchers studied attitudes—by asking participants where they fell on a scale ranging from positive to negative—also made it difficult to tease apart who held conflicting opinions from those who were neutral, according to Mark Zanna, a University of Waterloo professor who studies ambivalence. (Similarly, psychologists long believed it wasn’t necessary to examine men and women separately when studying the way people think.)

Now, researchers have been investigating how ambivalence, or lack of it, affects people’s lives, and how they might be able to make better decisions…

[continues in the Wall Street Journal]

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  • Andrew

    I think indecisiveness is less of a problem in our society than psychological splitting.

    • gemmarama

      disassociation being a close contender…

      • Andrew

        Wait, what did you say? I spaced out for a second.

  • Andrew

    I think indecisiveness is less of a problem in our society than psychological splitting.

  • emperorreagan

    I have a very high levels of both indifference and ambivalence. I think that the indifference probably limits my hand-wringing over many of the decisions I have to make in my daily life. I would never struggle at picking socks, to take the example in the article, because I simply don’t care about socks – all socks are pretty much the same to me. It’s fairly certain that I’m just going to buy whatever costs the least on a per-unit basis, since my general indifference to color, material, etc. leaves me with very little criteria to consider and to develop some sort of internal conflict.

  • emperorreagan

    I have a very high levels of both indifference and ambivalence. I think that the indifference probably limits my hand-wringing over many of the decisions I have to make in my daily life. I would never struggle at picking socks, to take the example in the article, because I simply don’t care about socks – all socks are pretty much the same to me. It’s fairly certain that I’m just going to buy whatever costs the least on a per-unit basis, since my general indifference to color, material, etc. leaves me with very little criteria to consider and to develop some sort of internal conflict.

  • gemmarama

    disassociation being a close contender…

  • Andrew

    Wait, what did you say? I spaced out for a second.

  • http://twitter.com/pulsestore Pulse Store

    People can actually make decisions, the problem is, they can’t stand for their own decision. That’s why they fail. http://www.pulseuniform.com/

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