Multiple Choice Gone Mad

Fill in the blank. Short answer. Essay. True/False. These terms probably bring back memories of high school and/or college. Depending on the type of student, the memories could be ones you’d rather forget or of well-earned victory. Personally, I disliked fill in the blank tests. Short answer tests were tolerable. But I excelled at essay tests and term papers. The longer the writing required, the better. I’ve just always been comfortable around the written word.

But by far, multiple choice tests were the ones I hated the most. Something about having several choices, usually 4, and often only slightly different from one another. To make matters worse, sometimes the directions indicated to choose “the best answer” and stated that more than one answer might be correct with only one being “the best.” This always frustrated me because I thought answers should be straight forward: either you know it or you don’t, and not laced with trickery. This belief system definitely showed itself in my teaching style during my 5-year stint as a college instructor.

As progress continually speeds up our world, life seems more and more like one big multiple choice test gone mad. Choices in every area of life abound. Just walk through your local supermarket to get an idea of the seemingly endless choices for just about every item. Pick one, say toilet paper. Multiple-sized packages. Varying prices. Which one is the best deal and of good quality? All will work, but some are definitely better choices that others. Usually, the best choice isn’t clear until, well… you know when the quality of this particular choice becomes obvious.

As I consider how we are barraged with choices in every area of life, I realized that not mentioning electronics and specifically cell phones would leave a gaping hole in this discussion. I mean, are there so many cell phone options and plans just to make a person frustrated enough to just give up and make a choice just so the confusion will end? Is there some marketing plan to force people into something they don’t want just to make a decision and get the latest and greatest? Cell phone and technology options certainly provide terrific examples of multiple choice gone mad.

In the January 2012 edition of O magazine, Dr. Oz points out a very startling but maybe not all that surprising fact about decision making. He said that “the more decisions we make in a day, the more likely we are to make bad decisions – because deciding wears us down. You start making decisions in the morning, and by the middle of the afternoon, you’re running on fumes.” Sound familiar to anyone?

So what’s the answer? Well, the wrong answer would be to fuel the brain with things like carbohydrates and caffeine and to keep making decision after decision as they multiple before our very eyes. Why?  Because, as Dr. Oz indicates, this creates a vicious cycle of unhealthy cravings and eventually we reach burnout. (Though, there are benefits to caffeine in moderation. See Let’s Have Coffee for a discussion on the benefits of coffee.) So, the best answer would then logically be to reduce the number of decisions we make. But is this even humanly possible?

We will address this possibility – or non-possibility as the case may be – next Friday. For now, please participate in the discussion, and your answer may be included in next week’s post. Share this article with friends (see share button below this post), and encourage them to participate too.  You can also check out my Facebook page and comment and share from there as well. The more input received, the better able we will be to find helpful answers to this question, answers that will help us find victory in this struggle.

DISCUSSION: How can we reduce the number of decisions we need to make daily? Is this even humanly possible? What tips do you have for making this happen?

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