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We all make thousands of choices each day – and think it means we’re in charge of our lives. But making even trivial decisions – about salad dressings, for example – can sap our energy and cause anxiety. Dr. Laurie Santos examines why our society wrongly prioritizes choice over happiness, and meets a woman who junked her wardrobe in a bid to improve her life.

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Links to references from this episode. . . 

“Louis Lassen, Danish immigrant and lunch wagon proprietor, was dealing with a difficult customer. “

Louis Lunch website

“That’s what the psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper set out to test in a famous study.”

Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. R. (2000). When choice is demotivating: Can one desire too much of a good thing?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 79(6), 995.

“He’s written an entire book drawing on experiments like the jam study.”

Schwartz, B. (2004, January). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York: Ecco.

“How many different drink options does that company offer? Over 80,000.”

Bialik, C. (2008). Starbucks Stays Mum on Drink Math. The Wall Street Journal, Apr 2, 2008.

“One study had people imagine trying to find a greeting card for a co-worker, either picking from a shelf after shelf of cards or just a limited selection.”

Diehl, K., & Poynor, C. (2010). Great expectations?! Assortment size, expectations, and satisfaction. Journal of Marketing Research, 47(2), 312-322.

“When asked about his repetitive wardrobe, the president summed up decision fatigue perfectly.”

Lewis, M. (2012) Obama’s Way. Vanity Fair. September 11 2012.

“The same thing happens with 401k plans.”

Schwartz, B. (2004, January). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York: Ecco.

“It was spring and 21-year-old Karen Ann Quinlan had just moved away from home.”

“Peter’s no stranger to these kinds of awful situations. Sadly, he’s also faced them in his own family.”

Ubel, P. (2012). Critical decisions: how you and your doctor can make the right medical choices together. Text Publishing.

“Back in 2006, she received some life-shattering news … and she reacted in exactly the science way recommends— she stopped treating lots of choice as a good thing.”

Courtney Carver’s book.

The Host

Dr. Laurie Santos

Dr. Laurie Santos is Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman College at Yale University. Professor and podcast host Dr. Laurie Santos is an expert on human cognition and the…