Do you ever wonder what your brain is thinking when you make a decision? If our bodies are designed to survive and make rational decisions, why do we make some choices that we end up regretting?
Our brains want to make a logical judgement based on all the options that are possible. However, given the fact that it is impossible to evaluate every choice there is, emotions step in to tell our brains to be satisfied as long as we meet one of two criteria; what Herbert Simon called the maximizer or the satisficer.
To better understand these models you and I demonstrate every day, I’ll share a quick personal example.
On the weekends, I enjoy getting friends together to hang out, eat tasty food, and most of all keep them entertained. For that reason, I am always searching for the best games to play with groups.
I have a set of internet bookmarks I keep as my go to sites whenever I’m feeling the urge for some new games to try. I listen to podcasts from store owners and the community to hear their take on games I’m investigating. Then, I look up video reviews on Youtube. Continuing, I browse their site and read through the rules to see if it sounds fun. Only after I’ve exhausted every resource I can find online do I step foot in an actual store to pick it up.
Finally, the day comes to teach the game to others and see what they think of it. If they sulk in boredom, or show little excitement; it feels like I had a lapse in judgment. Often I feel guilt to even bring the game out for a second chance.
Psychologist, Herbert Simon describes my behavior in this situation as that of a maximizer.
What is a Maximizer?
Maximizers are satisfied by researching as many options as they can. They sacrifice time and effort into learning as much about the “offer” as possible. They consider all the variations, advantages, and weaknesses. When the decision is final, they then compare it to the choices those around them made. The question on the maximizer’s mind is “Is there something better out there?”
Are you this way when buying some of your favorite things, working on a hobby, or in your profession?
What is a Satisficer?
Next, contrast that to the satisficer. Their satisfaction is judged by meeting the standards they have in place. To them time and energy is considered a waste if there is a reasonable option ready for the taking. Satisficers don’t necessarily have low standards; they can be super picky or want the top brand.
I may be a maximizer when it comes to buying games, but I’m a satisficer when it comes to buying office supplies. I’m not going to go to more than one store to compare who’s paper is better, what stapler I should buy, or the kind of bulb that will go in my desk lamp. My paper needs to be white, my stapler needs to staple, and my bulb needs to meet a certain wattage. I don’t really need to find the best of the best.
I’m sure you are the same way when it comes to certain decisions.
The Sliding Scale
This process isn’t black and white, one type or the other in all situations. In fact, like other traits and behaviors, it works on a sliding scale. Some decisions we make will heavily favor one over the other, buying games vs buying paper.
Other times it may fall closer to the middle. For example, when considering what college to attend you may have reasonable limitations based on your savings, test scores, or scholarships. At the same time, you have a set of requirements you want the school to meet and understand you will want to look at as many schools that meet those standards. After you make your decision you may compare it to the universities your peers picked, but you probably will feel satisfied with you choice based on the circumstances you came in with.
Which Method Makes You Happiest?
It’s hard for some people to think that a satisficer could really be happier since they’re willing to get by with what does the job and not necessarily the best. In a recent article, Mint.com stated it this way, “sufficing sounds like settling.”
At the same time, the maximizers have their own troubles. Looking through dozens of choices may feel exciting at first, but can quickly begin to feel overwhelming. Doubt can settle when there is always the possibility that your decision wasn’t the best one. In the previous article, they point out a study from The Paradox of Choice that states, “maximizers experience significantly less life satisfaction, happiness, optimism, and self-esteem.”
With higher objectives starting out, maximizers may obtain better cars, attend sophisticated schools, and live in nicer neighborhoods, but they will also likely live with more regret, anxiety and doubt.
What do I do now?
If you enjoy learning about your behaviors, motivations, and values we have a number of personal assessments you can take.
You can also download a free sample here
We also encourage readers to take advantage of the free Ebook 4 Steps to Reach Your Ultimate Potential and Balanced Life.
image courtesy of stuck in customs