Why making many decisions reduces our ability to make rational ones.


Decision Fatigue

, explained.

What is Decision Fatigue?

As we make more decisions throughout a given period, our decisions change. Usually these changes are for the worse, or at least less rational.


The phenomenon known as decision fatigue is closely related to the concept of ego depletion, which is the idea that the active self is a limited resource. Decision fatigue has three primary effects. One is a reduced ability to make trade-offs; if two options have positive and negative attributes, it will be difficult to estimate which attributes are stronger. Another is decision avoidance; we will opt for the default even more often. Finally, there is reduced willpower, resulting in choices that will have negative long-term outcomes. Anti-decision-fatigue strategies are becoming more common. These revolve around reducing unimportant decisions (for example: clothing, meals) to make more optimal decisions about more important subjects..


Prisoners up for parole are given a random time for their hearing. This time, unfortunately, has a large effect on their likelihood of being released. Prisoners who have a morning hearing are more likely to be given parole than prisoners who have an afternoon hearing. This is because the judges suffer from decision fatigue by the afternoon, and are therefore more likely to choose the default option, which in this case is to deny parole.

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