How often have you found yourself struggling to decide what to watch on TV – even with hundreds of channels and numerous streaming services to pick from? If it exhausts you, you’re not alone. It’s called choice paralysis – and it’s a very real thing.
CGTN’s Phil Lavelle explains.
Psychologist, Judy Ho said, choice paralysis actually means that less is more. Even though it sounds like a good idea when we have more choices, we take up precious cognitive demands to make decisions, we feel exhausted at the end of it all.
Technology could be said to be responsible: TV and movie streaming services offering thousands of shows in entire seasons to binge watch at our heart’s content and music services doing the same with millions of tunes. The likes of Amazon offering all-you-can-read packages with eBooks, Apple and Nintendo with their video-games subscription services and numerous services offering access to as many magazines as you want.
It’s a long way from the days when we had to wait a week for the next episode of a TV show, or trek out to a movie theater with a committed choice on what we wanted to watch.
“It’s like when you go to a restaurant and there’s 20 pages of menu, and for half an hour, you’re staring at it, have no idea what to order. So in some ways, it’s like that and I think it originated from a place where more is better, so if we have more choices, we feel better about ourselves, we like our freedoms.. but actually, we’re creating problems by allowing so much choice. I think that when you have too much choice, your mind is constantly weighing the alternative. ‘What if I miss out, what if I don’t do this?’ And all of that actually takes up all of our precious resources in our pre-frontal cortex. It burdens us too much so we can’t actually get to the bottom of it, make a good decision and move onto the next task,” Ho said.
Karla Davies finds it hard to figure out what to watch. She and her husband Sam recently moved to the U.S. from the U.K. They’ve got Netflix and the usual streaming options. But despite the huge amount of choice, they’ve made a deliberate choice to watch one show only: Friends.
“It’s just constant flick, flick, flick, flick.. you watch a trailer, you decide you don’t want to watch that, so you flick through a bit more. That’s the stressful part – constantly flicking through and not being decisive enough to choose something to watch.
It’s the time that it takes to find something to watch, so we’ll argue about how long it takes to find something to watch on telly.”
Ben Paddon’s got a similar problem. He’s a big video games fan and loves his Nintendo Switch which he bought on launch day. For him, part of the draw was the game, ‘Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ which had gained rave reviews and has been critically acclaimed for it’s depth and layers of play. But that presented him with a big issue: he got paralyzed by choice too:
“I’d been waiting for this game for months – pretty much a couple of years.
I always think there’s this area that I’m not going to that, or if I choose to do that, what am I missing out on? What am I missing out on by going north.. I lock up. I just get stuck in this cycle and as a consequence, I think I’ve maybe spent four hours playing the game in the two years since it came out.”
“What happens is people say that their attention feels drained, that they’re less attentive to what’s going on. Oftentimes, you’ll see people flipping through their channels trying to see what to watch at the same time they’re flipping through their phones, and that actually does cognitively exhaust us, so I do think that that is a problem. I think that the most important thing – and I know there is a lot of talk about mindfulness, but it is a real thing – so try to do one thing at a time. It really does bring us more of a sense of peace, we can concentrate better, we can be more effective and more importantly, we enjoy things more when we do them one thing at a time,” Judy Ho said.
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