Being bombarded with options may not be such a good thing after all, for a new study has found that it can be mentally exhausting.
And, researchers who carried out a study on being given options, revealed that a plethora of choices can in fact leave people less productive, making it difficult to stay focused enough to complete projects, handle daily tasks or even take medicine.
As a part of the study researchers from several universities, led by Kathleen D. Vohs, PhD, conducted seven experiments involving 328 participants and 58 consumers at a shopping mall.
In the laboratory experiments, some participants were asked to make choices about consumer products, college courses or class materials while others did not have to make decisions but simply had to consider the options in front of them.
The volunteers were then asked to participate in one of two unpleasant tasks - finishing a healthy but ill-tasting drink or putting their hands in ice water.
The boffins found that participants who did not initially have to make choices were able to stay focused and finish their goal-focused task better than those who had had to make choices earlier.
After carrying out other experiments, researchers then conducted a field test at a shopping mall.
The shoppers reported how much decision-making they had done while shopping that day and then were asked to solve simple arithmetic problems.
The researchers found that the more choices the shoppers had made earlier in the day, the worse they performed on the math problems.
"Maintaining one's focus while trying to solve problems or completing an unpleasant task was much harder for those who had made choices compared to those who had not," says Vohs.
"This pattern was found in the laboratory, classroom and shopping mall. Having to make the choice was the key. It did not matter if the researchers told them to make choices, or if it was a spontaneously made choice, or if making the choice had consequences or not."
The findings appear in the April issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.