The current research tested the hypothesis that making many choices impairs subsequent self-control. Drawing from a limited-resource model of self-regulation and executive function, the authors hypothesized that decision making depletes the same resource used for self-control and active responding. In 4 laboratory studies, some participants made choices among consumer goods or college course options, whereas others thought about the same options without making choices.
Making choices led to reduced self-control (i.e., less physical stamina, reduced persistence in the face of failure, more procrastination, and less quality and quantity of arithmetic calculations). A field study then found that reduced self-control was predicted by shoppers’ self-reported degree of previous active decision making. Further studies suggested that choosing is more depleting than merely deliberating and forming preferences about options and more depleting than implementing choices made by someone else and that anticipating the choice task as enjoyable can reduce the depleting effect for the first choices but not for many choices.
(PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)
Source: “Making choices impairs subsequent self-control: A limited-resource account of decision making, self-regulation, and active initiative.” from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Vohs, Kathleen D.; Baumeister, Roy F.; Schmeichel, Brandon J.; Twenge, Jean M.; Nelson, Noelle M.; Tice, Dianne M.
If someone wants to hash out a joint plan with me (“What do you do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”), I’ll avoid impatiently truncating the process with an arbitrary choice. I’m not going to make any decision for the both of us unless I’m sure that they’ll gladly follow my lead. My suggestions will come with very little internal commitment (“well, I like this place …”). I want to make each decision at most once.