news & views – decision fatigue

Earlier this month, a friend linked me to this article on “decision fatigue” in the New York Times. The article is being circulated pretty widely and the gist of it is that the more decisions we are faced with in a day, the more likely we are to hit overload and default to the “easy” option.
An excerpt from the article:

The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. … The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice.

Many blogs have been talking about this fatigue in terms of food choices, especially among the poorer classes, and the resulting health issues like childhood obesity. However, my first thought went to the “GreenWashing” debate, and how exhausting it can be when faced with a line of quasi-meaningless labels on everything from eggs to dish soap.

via flickr user pswansen

I believe one of the difficulties the green movement faces is that so many people see all these labels and simply don’t know what to believe, or what is truly an earth friendly choice, so they burn out on “green” shopping.
The LA Times quotes one researcher as saying “Many don’t trust manufacturer motives, but they end up making a decision at the shelf based on the packaging, usually just buying the brands they’ve always bought,” said Suzanne Shelton, chief executive of the group.

As Eco-Etsians, this phenomenon hits us coming and going.

At home: How is the fatigue influencing what we bring into our homes and onto our plates?
The Ethical Consumption blog does a decent job of deciphering labels
The EcoLogo program is also great for a wide array of products.
If you use a SMartPhone, here’s a rather convenient app called label lookup.

On Etsy: How is the fatigue affecting people shopping in our stores, and how we can make the choices easier for our customers?
I think the easiest way to help here is with very transparent item descriptions, policies and profiles. We have to spell out exactly why our products are a good and easy choice for our customers so they feel good about buying.
If you have any other tips for keeping decision fatigue at bay, please share in the comments! Thanks!

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  1. Great post – I definitely have decision fatigue just in daily life. I’m going to look up more on it. Good to know it’s not just me being a lazy-ass. :)

  2. It always cracks me up to see something like chicken labeled as “natural” :-).

    In an ideal world, businesses would behave ethically and be nothing but truthful in their claims and advertising. Sadly, this is not about to happen any time soon. For all its defects and mistakes, the only entity that looks after our well-being as consumers is our government. I know that these days it is very fashionable to bash it, but with all the false claims, abuses, data manipulation, etc that take place now, can you imagine how things would be in a regulations-free environment?

  3. Such a good read!
    I agree labels can be so misleading and it applies to Etsy shops too. When an item description says “natural cotton”, “natural fibers” etc. it doesn’t give a proof of any sort that the item is being eco-friendly. People think it sounds eco-friendly but they don’t know that growing cotton is one of the worst practices we can do to our environment, for instance. I wish producers, makers, shop owners etc. would take more responsibility when marketing their goods in all fields including handmade market.