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Insights

Thoughts and writings from the world of Ionia

Too much choice...

The more choice we have, the more freedom we can arguably say we have. The more freedom we have, the better off we tend to be. Right?

The more choice we have, the more freedom we can arguably say we have. The more freedom we have, the better off we tend to be. Right? Well, this is so deeply embedded in the dogma of being an American that modern progress created a world of choice supporting it. Take a supermarket experience to buy a salad dressing; typically, there’s about 175 different choices on the salad dressing aisle, even if you count the variants of olive oil and balsamic vinegars. There’s more variety than 175 if you mix some of these at home to make your own variations. Overall, it’s an incredibly vast array of choices to be made for what should otherwise be a quick selection. This same kind of choice is available in other industries, too. Mobile phone technology is an excellent example. 

Overall, it’s an incredibly vast array of choices to be made for what should otherwise be a quick selection

It’s not possible in salad dressings, mobile phones, or even healthcare, to find the product or service that doesn’t do too much. They’re all rife with thousands of choices. This is significant. Even something like our identity becomes a flurry of intricate choices. You no longer inherit an identity, you get to go and invent it. Everywhere we look, both significant things and insignificant things, material and identity, life is a matter of choices. The world we lived in used to be simpler, but now, it’s much more complicated. 

This is significant. Even something like our identity becomes a flurry of intricate choices. You no longer inherit an identity, you get to go and invent it

The reality of this is as good as it is bad. What’s good about it? It’s liberating and connected to higher wellbeing and more freedom to be who you want to be. The bad part? Paradoxically, it produces a kind of paralysis rather than liberation. With so many possible options, people find it difficult to choose anything at all. Additionally, we tend to compare all of our choices to all the other possible ones available to us; we tend to imagine after making a decision that a more attractive choice was rejected. And finally, there’s a kind of escalation of expectations. All these choices, surely you can find something better than the choice you made before! Sadly, it’s actually worse because you begin to seek every choice in the future as a better one than before, but you’re not going to find it. The perfect choice out of 1000’s is illusory, leaving you dissatisfied. 

It’s liberating and connected to higher wellbeing and more freedom to be who you want to be. The bad part? Paradoxically, it produces a kind of paralysis rather than liberation

Overcoming this reality in healthcare resides in examining the choices we offer providers, patients, and staff; instead of offering an unlimited set of choices, sometimes a limited set can increase satisfaction and decrease paralysis. And that, is liberating. 

-Matt

Matt is a Behavioral Economics expert and would like to arm each of you with behavioral science tools to address strategic and delivery challenges. His firm, Ionia.co designs processes to optimize human motivation, persuasion, influence, perception, behavioral nudges, and gamification. If you are interested in engaging with your patients, please email him at matt@ionia.co or call at 205.434.3499.  

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Matthew Cybulsky