Letting Strangers Decide

Posted by Prince Gomolvilas
ON Monday, January 12, 2009
I think I've told you before how I can get easily overwhelmed when I'm given too many choices. For example, I have been known to spend an hour or two at my local video store, just browsing, only to go home defeated and empty-handed when I can't decide on something to watch. (No, I am not spending all that time trying to hump the hot employees; I am actually trying to find a movie.)

Then I read a really interesting article from The Washington Post. As a social experiment, writer T.M. Shine wanted to see what it would be like if he let complete strangers make all his decisions for him. First stop, Dunkin' Donuts:
"Excuse me," I said to the woman behind me one morning in the queue at Dunkin' Donuts. "I'm currently asking strangers to make all my decisions. Would you mind picking out a dozen doughnuts for me?"

"I'll order two, but then you're on your own," she said.

"Never mind."

Everyone knows the first two doughnuts are the easy ones.

"I'll do it, but you'll have to tell me what you like," a gangly woman who had overheard the previous exchange said.

"Thanks, but that kind of defeats my purpose," I responded.

"As long as you're paying," a thick-armed guy shrugged at me just as it was his turn to order.

He attacked the chore with glee. His choices were a blur of glaze and frosting. He stopped only once, looked back at me and said, "Sprinkles, two sprinkles," and they fell into the box with the majesty of a fireworks grand finale.

It was a win-win, a successful random act of indecision (RAI). And I was striking a blow for science. "Your experiment will reveal how much pleasure in a dessert comes from it simply being a dessert, rather than a dessert that you would have chosen," Plous had observed. "In many cases, the difference in benefit between two choices is smaller than we'd guess."

And that's not even counting the pleasure of not having to be the one to make the tough decisions. I couldn't wait to get home and have someone in my family make a face about the two apple crumbs -- Why'd you pick the-e-e-se? -- so I could reply quite proudly, "I didn't."
Anyway, the whole article is funny and really well-written, and culminates in a terrific last paragraph.

Read the entire article here.

Also, I just found out that T.M. Shine has a blog too.
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1 Comment

  1. Peter Varvel Said,

    Are you thinking of letting readers of Bamboo Nation make all of your decisions for you?
    Where would I start? Let me sink my teeth into it all!


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