Choice Congestion |

Choice Congestion

Choice Congestion
Institutional Affiliation
Daily, people living in the modern society encounter high levels of activity and choices,
which requires that they decide the options to take and often regret the choices made. According
to Shiraev and Levy (2015), the phenomenon of having so many choices and actions to choose
from is called choice congestion. The high load of choices to make overloads individuals and
that makes them feel frustrated. However, the frustration is more common whenever the
individual makes the decisions or choices that turn out to be wrong and lead to adverse
outcomes. As an example, whenever a person makes the wrong decision during the purchase of a
car, and they end up with a color they did not prefer, they may experience the frustration caused
by guilt for months or years (Ariel, 2014). In the modern society, the causes of psychological
frustration are more common than in the traditional culture. Common sources include second-
guessing a vital life choice such as the career to take, the size and color of a dress purchased, or
the road that one takes, especially when they encounter traffic congestion that delays them for
hours. According to Das and Kerr (2010), it is essential to learn about choice congestion and the
psychological problems it triggers, which can be reduced by making better decisions about
important issues. This report explores the phenomenon of choice congestion and the
psychological issues it triggers such as the frustration experienced for days, weeks, months, or
years in some cases.
Background to the Problem of Choice Congestion
Learning about the causes of frustration and regret calls for understanding the ways the
inherent experience of regret and frustration work, and also the external factors and
circumstances that affect the levels experienced. According to Pieters and Zeelenberg (2007),
some behaviors increase the levels of choice congestion by causing distractions, and that may
increase the levels of regret and frustration experienced after making a wrong decision or choice.
As an example, being distracted on the phone while shopping for clothes or groceries increases
the individual levels of regret after making the wrong choice of products. Ariel (2014) explains
that the high levels of regret result from the person’s awareness that their distracted nature
contributed to the outcome of making the wrong purchase. Further, many of the other
disturbances that people face on a daily basis increase the risks that they will make the wrong
decisions and choices, and that increases the levels of frustration and the resultant psychological
problems they suffer afterward (Shiraev & Levy, 2015). The most common psychological
problem that results from choice congestion is depression, especially where the decision has a
long-term impact. Through learning about the reality of choice congestion and the factors that
lead to making the wrong choices and decisions, the modern man can cultivate the skills needed
to improve their choices.
The Concept of Choice Congestion in the Modern Culture and Society
The phenomenon of choice congestion is best understood through exploring the literature
that covers the various aspects and working of the human memory. The human memory works in
three stages, including the sensory, working, and long-term memory functions. According to
Ariel (2014), sensory memory is responsible for processing the short-lived inputs that come from
the five senses. On the other hand, the long-term memory function is responsible for storing
information for long periods of time, especially the knowledge that is gained during highly
emotional encounters or given a lot of attention. As an example, the information about the dream
house that a person wishes to buy a year or two later is kept in the long-term memory, due to the
emotional energy backing the information. Working memory is the medium-term function of the
memory and it is responsible for temporarily storing and manipulating the knowledge and
information needed to perform complex cognitive roles such as learning, language production
and comprehension, and reasoning (Ariel, 2014). The working memory function is also the
medium that processes the sensory signals and interactions between the individual and the
immediate environment, which allows for the storage of some of the information in the long-
term memory.
Choice congestion is best explained using the cognitive load theory. The theory was
fashioned by the scientists exploring the idea of whether people’s information process capacity
can be improved through the conscious understanding and manipulation of external
circumstances such as the effects of distractions (Ariel, 2014). Choice congestion, which refers
to high cognitive loads, also influences an individual’s ability to learn new information and to
reach informed decisions. There are two primary forms of choice congestion. They include
intrinsic congestion, which arises from the complexity of a task, and extraneous congestion,
which is triggered by receiving and encountering wrong or unclear instructions (Schnotz &
Kürschner, 2007). As an example, one intrinsic congestion scenario is encountering a very
complex mathematics problem during an examination, while extraneous congestion would result
from lacking a clear understanding of the instructions provided for the test question. According
to Schnotz and Kürschner (2007), before the 1990s, the cognitive load theory was limited to the
study of instructional models in the field of education and teaching. However, the theory recently
gained usage among the experts researching explanations for phenomena such as choice
congestion, which is a common occurrence in the modern society and culture.
With the understanding of the concept of choice congestion and the applicability of the
cognitive load theory to studying it; the next step is exploring the mechanisms that trigger choice
congestion in people. The decision strategies employed by individuals are categorized into two
main areas, including similarity-based and rule-based decision making (Juslin, Karlsson, &
Olsson, 2008). Similarity-based decisions are based on the shallow analysis of a decision to
check that it fits into a known or existing decision framework. In contrast, rule-based choices are
based on the use of the rules needed to ensure that the individual reaches the decision in an
informed manner and the process leads to a specific decision. Von Helversen, Mata, and Olsson
(2010) notes that in everyday life, people use one of the two decision-making strategies
depending on the surrounding context. As an example, when shopping for toothpaste, the buyer
is likely to choose the brand they used and found appropriate for them in the past, or refer to
existing decisions sources such as the information provided by advertising campaigns for leading
brands. However, the encounter with a phenomenon that an individual has not encountered in the
past, and which there is no easily accessible information on the options to take, it is crucial that
the decision is based on specific rules (Das & Kerr, 2010). During the purchase of a car, the rules
applied may include the brands to buy due to their reliability record, or the expected fuel
economy, since failing to consider the essential rules will lead to frustration after the purchase.
Irrespective of the decision-making strategy used or applied to a scenario; it is crucial that
an individual considers the effects of the decisions they make. For instance, when deciding to
buy one of two care brands that are known to be reliable and to offer excellent fuel economy, it is
crucial that the individual employs rule-based decision making for some considerations (Ariel,
2014). The relevant considerations include the use of the car and the experiences they wish to
have during the ownership of the vehicle. The considerations that are best addressed using the
rule-based decision making includes whether a hatchback or a sedan is more appropriate for their
frequent use and whether the dimensions of the car will fit in their garage. The example indicates
that, despite the choice congestion that characterizes the modern society and community, people
can reduce the experiences of the frustration and psychological suffering that result from making
decisions ignorantly (Das & Kerr, 2010). As an example, if the car buyer purchases a car that
does not fit in their garage, they may experience the frustration of living with the new vehicle for
years, due to a consideration they could make in a few hours (von Helversen, Mata, & Olsson,
2010). This information is crucial for the modern man, as a guide for reaching more informed
decisions, which will eliminate many of the instances of frustration, despite encountering choice
congestion daily.
Daily living in the modern society is characterized by many decisions to make and
activities to prioritize over others. The effects of this include that many individuals select the
actions or make the decisions that are not appropriate for the particular situation, and that leads
to frustration and psychological problems such as depression. Fortunately, the research done in
the past has shown that the frustration and psychological suffering are higher, wherever the
individual did not study the information that could improve the decision. As an example,
whenever a buyer purchases the wrong product because they were distracted by their phone or
another distraction, they experienced higher levels of frustration and psychological suffering.
Similarly, through applying the cognitive load theory to the study of choice congestion showed
that individuals can lessen the frustration and psychological suffering the experience by using the
more deliberate decision making a strategy. The study of the problem of choice congestion
provided useful information on ways to deal with it and recommended insights that the modern
man can use to stay free from the adverse effects.
Ariel, E. (2014). Memory and Decision Processes: The Impact of Cognitive Loads on Decision
Regret. Wharton Research Scholars, 108.
Das, N., & Kerr, A. H. (2010). “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda”: A Conceptual Examination of the
Sources of Postpurchase Regret. The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice,18(2),
Juslin, P., Karlsson, L., & Olsson, H. (2008). Information integration in multiple-cue judgment: a
division of labor hypothesis. Cognition, 106 (1), 259-298.
Pieters, R., & Zeelenberg, M. (2007). A Theory of Regret Regulation 1.1. Journal of Consumer
Psychology, 17(1), 29-35.
Schnotz, W., & Kürschner, C. (2007). A Reconsideration of Cognitive Load Theory.
Educational Psychology Review, 19 (4), 469-508.
Shiraev, E., & Levy, D. (2015). Cross-Cultural Psychology: Critical Thinking and
Contemporary Applications (Fifth Edition). New York: Routledge.
Von Helversen, B., Mata, R., & Olsson, H. (2010). Do children profit from looking beyond
looks? From similarity-based to cue abstraction processes in multiple-cue judgment.
Developmental Psychology, 46 (1), 220-229.

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