Does Having a Choice Makes Us Happier?
Does Having a Choice Makes Us Happier?
  • Jeong Gang-min (Mueunjae 18)
  • 승인 2018.12.12 13:33
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As a freshman in POSTECH, we must decide our major from the second year. This seems to be a simple procedure, but I am still having troubles with finding my interests and major to study. At times I feel apprehensive because I have to choose the best major for me for the next four years, or more if I consider about graduate school. Choice seems to give us freedom for our action, but, sometimes, having a variety of choices is more difficult to make a decision than just having a few options. This raised a question for me, “To what extent is the choice a negative factor in the decision?”
Emotion and reason are the two most common things that we use when making a decision. Many people tell others to use ‘reason’ or be rational when making a decision. For example, if you are buying cereal in a large supermarket, there could be hundreds of choices as there are so many types and numbers of products. Comparing the price, flavor, and nutrition information, you can try to make the best decision. By considering many factors, we could avoid mistakes and further negative implications. However, using just reason can make us decide even if it is against our emotions or beliefs. What if you did not have any preferences for cereals? Or if there were thousands of types to consider? Then it becomes almost impossible to make a decision just by using reason. In that situation, you will be stuck. Having too many choices will blur your mind. You might feel regret for not buying other products and you will be less satisfied with the choice you made.
Here is when the power of emotion comes in. When there are too many choices, we need to have the feeling of ‘Yes!’ to make a decision. Without that emotion, you are stuck. It happens a lot for small decision. We are constantly making decisions whether we are aware of them. For instance, if I have to choose a pen to write down something, I just take any pen out of my pencil case; without being rational and going through an evaluation of each individual pen! In a fraction of second, we have that ‘yes’ emotion. Without this emotion, we become indecisive in our daily life. Then, where does that emotion come from? Psychologists say they are from past experiences. Deep down in the brain, a lot of information is stored and compressed. Subconsciously it is sent to you as a feeling. The power of emotion can be useful when making a decision. However, emotion is not always useful. When you are under extreme stress, intense emotions can hinder your judgement. Thus, the balance between emotion and reason is necessary. 
We have talked about how too many choices can make it difficult to make a decision. But we agree that choices are necessary for our lives. Living with no options, life with a binary choice – yes or no - would be too extreme. Then, how many choices can we handle? Psychologists claim we can hold up to seven digits without difficulty. The average human can hold about seven pieces of discrete information in working memory at any given time. If we have way more than seven choices, often the choice is the wrong one because the brain is too full of choices and facts which can turn into a regret.
Our life is full of choices and decisions. I often find many of my friends make decisions that go against their interests and emotion due to the pressures from their surroundings. I hope we can learn to balance ‘reason’ and ‘emotion’ when it comes to decision making, without having any regrets.