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Why Making Decisions Stresses Some People Out

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Canadian researchers have identified a common, avoidable stressor in some people’s decision-making process: Fear of a Better Option (FOBO). The team published their research online this month in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Psychologists Jeffrey Hughes and Abigail A. Scholer of the University of Waterloo were curious about the type of person experts call a “maximizer”: that is, somebody who researches and considers every possible option before making a decision. “The general mindset of this type of person is something like, ‘I don't want to do anything until I've figured out the right thing to do,’” Hughes told Real Simple. Hughes and Scholer conducted two different studies in the hopes of understanding the maximizer mindset.

For the "promotion-focused" maximizer, every choice hinges on whether or not it will help the individual gain social or financial status. These folks are generally able to make a choice and move on. "Assessment-focused" maximizers, on the other hand, have a difficult time letting go of any option, and may find themselves obsessing over choices they had initially ruled out.

They found that the strategy has clear pros and cons. These kinds of maximizers may make more thoroughly considered decisions than other people, Hughes said, but “it can also lead people to get locked into a state where they keep evaluating and re-evaluating without making any decision.”

Rather than choosing among already well-researched options, the assessment-focused maximizers will just keep adding and researching new ones, prolonging the decision-making process even further. They may also rule out some options, then change their minds, thereby adding doubt, frustration, and regret to the equation. That kind of decision-related paralysis can take a real toll on an individual's well-being. (Notes Hughes, "If you tend to feel frustrated or regretful about decisions on a regular basis, that can lead to some pretty negative outcomes, like lower satisfaction with life.")

Although Hughes and Scholer have yet to test out possible solutions in a laboratory setting, Hughes believes the best thing maximizers can do is to recognize that overthinking is often the enemy of a satisfactory conclusion, and remind themselves to truly let go of options they’ve already eliminated. “Try to trust your gut when you look at an option and feel like it’s not a good one,” he suggests.

Boundaries can also help us from falling down a rabbit hole of online reviews and pro and con lists. It’s all about recognizing the value of your time and energy.

“Tell yourself, ‘I am going to spend 30 minutes researching plane tickets, and that’s it—then I’m buying the best one and moving on,’” Hughes says. “Your time is also a cost, so why not spend that time on decisions that are most important to you?”

[h/t Real Simple]

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What Pop Culture Gets Wrong About Dissociative Identity Disorder
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From the characters in Fight Club to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, popular culture is filled with "split" personalities. These dramatic figures might be entertaining, but they're rarely (if ever) scientifically accurate, SciShow Psych's Hank Green explains in the channel's latest video. Most representations contribute to a collective misunderstanding of dissociative identity disorder, or DID, which was once known as multiple personality disorder.

Experts often disagree about DID's diagnostic criteria, what causes it, and in some cases, whether it exists at all. Many, however, agree that people with DID don't have multiple figures living inside their heads, all clamoring to take over their body at a moment's notice. Those with DID do have fragmented personalities, which can cause lapses of memory, psychological distress, and impaired daily function, among other side effects.

Learn more about DID (and what the media gets wrong about mental illness) by watching the video below.

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Humblebraggarts Are the Worst (Science Says So)
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Humblebraggarts. We all know (at least) one: that person who takes a woe-is-me tack to ostensibly "complain" about something when the real intent is to boast.

"It's noon, I haven't had a cup of coffee, and the espresso machine at this Mercedes dealer is broken. FML!"

"Have been sitting on the runway for 30 minutes. Next time I'm flying commercial instead of private."

In many ways, it's another version of #FirstWorldProblems, and social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have only made the practice more pervasive. As TIME reports, a new study has concluded that people see right through this fake humility—and like people less for doing it.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a series of nine experiments, including a week-long diary study and a field experiment, to both identify the ubiquity of the behavior and then determine its effectiveness as a form of self-presentation. Their findings, which were published in the January Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, determined that if you're going to brag, people would rather you just be transparent about it.

"It's such a common phenomenon," Ovul Sezer, study co-author and an assistant professor of organizational behavior at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, told TIME. "All of us know some people in our lives, whether in social media or in the workplace, who do this annoying thing. You think, as the humblebragger, that it's the best of both worlds, but what we show is that sincerity is actually the key ingredient."

Of the 646 participants, 70 percent of them could recall a recent humblebrag they'd heard—the majority of which (about 60 percent) were complaint-based. But the study showed, overwhelmingly, that any statements that could be perceived as humblebragging (whether complaint- or humility-based) "are less effective than straightforward bragging, as they reduce liking, perceived competence, compliance with requests, and financial generosity," according to the study's authors.

"Despite the belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each strategy," the study concluded, "we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring because it is seen as insincere.”

In other words: they're not fooling anyone.

"If you want to announce something, go with the brag and at least own your self-promotion and reap the rewards of being sincere, rather than losing in all dimensions," Sezer said—though she suggested that an even more effective tactic is to find someone else to boast on your behalf. "If someone brags for you, that's the best thing that can happen to you, because then you don't seem like you're bragging," she told TIME.

However, Sezer's final piece of advice was not to be too hasty in your dismissal of humblebraggarts as a whole. "We all do it, to some extent," she said. "I hope I don't sound like I'm humblebragging when I talk about this research."

[h/t: TIME]

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