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Choices Sap Your Stamina, Self Control: Study
Date:4/18/2008

Experiments point to the brain-draining effects of decision-making

FRIDAY, April 18 (HealthDay News) -- From "paper or plastic" to 31 flavors of ice cream, people's lives are full of choices. Now, new research suggests that facing too many decisions can sap your stamina, your ability to stay focused and even maintain self-control.

A number of experiments have shown that people faced with a variety of choices had more trouble later when they had to figure out whether to take risky actions.

"If people have a day or period of time in which they are making many choices, they will be vulnerable to low self-control," said study lead author Kathleen Vohs, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. This could lead "to overeating, overdrinking, overspending, losing one's temper, and procrastination."

Vohs and her colleagues created several experiments to gauge the effects of multiple choices. Their findings are published in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In one experiment, 18 women were told to choose among a variety of products, including T-shirts, scented candles, shampoos and others. Another 20 women didn't make choices but were asked to consider their preferences.

Both groups were then asked to drink an unpleasant-tasting concoction -- an orange drink mixed with vinegar and water -- in return for a nickel for each ounce consumed.

"We found that when people had been making choices, they drank less than when people had just been thinking about their preferences," Vohs said.

This suggests that those who didn't make choices had more capacity for "self control," Vohs said.

In other experiments, the researchers found that making choices made it tougher for participants to perform well on a math test, avoid distractions and take action regarding a malfunctioning videotape.

Paul J. Zak, director of t
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