Why indecision makes you smarter

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In the TV series The Good Place, the character Chidi Anagonye is defined by his inability to make even the simplest of decisions – from choosing what to eat to proclaiming love for his soulmate. The very idea of making a choice often results in a serious stomachache. He is stuck in continued ‘analysis paralysis’. 

We meet Chidi in the afterlife and learn that his indecisiveness was the cause of his death. While standing in the street, endlessly equivocating on which bar to visit with his best friend, an air-conditioning unit from the apartment above falls on his head, killing him instantly. 

“You know the sound that a fork makes in the garbage disposal? That’s the sound my brain makes all the time,” he says in one episode. And besides making himself unhappy, Chidi’s lack of confidence in his own judgments drives the people around him crazy. 

If that sounds like an exaggerated version of you, then you are not alone: indecisiveness is a common trait. While some people come to very quick judgments, others struggle to weigh up the options – and may even try to avoid making a choice at all. 

As Chidi shows, indecisiveness can be linked to problems like anxiety, yet recent research suggests that it can also have an upside – it protects us from common cognitive errors like confirmation bias so that when the person does finally come to a judgment, it is generally wiser than those who jumped to a conclusion too quickly. The trick is to learn when to wait, and when to break through the inertia while it’s holding you back. 





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