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Can Having Too Much Information Lead to Worse Decisions?

Decision-making can be a particularly stressful experience for some, especially those of a more indecisive nature. However, even usually decisive people may struggle with the decision-making process. When?

This occurs when they are provided with a barrage of information which leads to overchoice; a psychological phenomenon that is also known as the tyranny of choice; which refers to the impairment of effective decision making when confronted with an overwhelming amount of choices.

Being well-informed before making a decision is what most calculated people do, it is smart to do as it allows you weigh up the pros and cons of your decisions before proceeding.. However, is there a point where there becomes too much information? We're told that knowledge is power, but what if our obsession with data clouds our ability to make decisions?

Information is addictive, it is why we cling onto our phones and why the saying " word of mouth" is accurate. In fact, Learning is associated with the release of dopamine , which has the same effect on our minds as cocaine. We are in an information-laden age where it can be hard to distinguish between real and fake-news, which adds to the confusion of having a plethora of information.

When we have too much information, we may start to overanalyze details and second-guess a typically routine decision. These are the complicities that come with having a multitude of data. Data processing is notoriously complex and thus having more information could result in confusion. It is crucial not to fall into the impulse to gather as much information as possible. Instead, take a moment to ask yourself which details are important to help you make an informed decision and to ignore the irrelevant data.

Here are a few pointers to help you with the decision-making process:

  1. Be aware of your overconfidence

  2. Identify the risks worth taking

  3. Consider the opposite perspective

  4. Acknowledge your shortcuts

Be aware of your overconfidence

It is certainly a good thing to be confident, but overconfidence is not a good trait to have when making a decision. When we are feeling overconfident, we tend to overestimate our abilities and underestimate the situation. This leads to a shorter decision-making process that the situation potentially requires.

Identify the risks worth taking

Risk-taking is a crucial element of the decision-making process, we have to weigh up the pros and cons of a particular risk before deciding whether it is a risk worth taking. It is important to understand the probabilities associated with the risk, so that one can make risks with a high likelihood of coming off.

Consider the opposite perspective

Once you have made your decision, it would be wise to consider the alternative perspective. Doing so allows you to evaluate whether you chosen option was the right one. It is easy to favour the selected choice and hence it is important to do so objectively.

Acknowledge your shortcuts

We may sometimes base our decisions on information that we have been readily exposed to such as through the news - the availability heuristic, which clouds our judgments subconsciously. We must be aware of this as we may be influenced by factors that we not even aware of.

So the next time you are making a decision and find yourself in the information gathering process. Take a step back and ask yourself if the data is actually useful or a load of irrelevant research that you have done simply because you were able to.


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