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Brent: The Science of (too much!) Choice

4 Minute Read
Oct 8 2012

Chaos is here!  And it’s all spiffy in hardback and everything – how about that?  There are new unit types; heck, there are even models for the new unit types!

We’re spoiled for choice!  But… all that choice is sort of the problem.

Hello again, Faithful Reader.  Here’s the standard third paragraph introduction / plea for the brevity that is internet fame.  Brent here: love me, hate me, whatever!  Please just click that stupid ‘Follow’ Button on Strictly Average.  It haunts me it does.

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Moving on (quickly), my day job has some nifty perks, you know, to make up for the lack of things like ‘payment.’  I have an office, and a desk, and stacks of paper everywhere.  No, none of that is so hip, but what is très cool is unfettered access to a hospital’s professional research library and the expectation to stay current in theory!

Yes, sir!  I can sit on my keister and kick my legs up and enjoy the latest Journal of *fill in the blank* – jealous some?  Okay, so it’s not porn, but we don’t want to make the filters blush.

Anyway, I’ve been on a binge of peer support in the recovery model and acute behavioral interventions when I finally learned what many of you probably already know.

Ted Talks.

Not sure who this guy ‘Ted’ is, but he knows all the best people.  They film each other speaking.  It’s as kinky as it sounds.

Why all this Ted Talks talk?  Recently, I read an article on choice and happiness that is the basis of this Terrible Tuesday article.  “How cool,” methinks.  “I’ll link the video and we’ll all have a moment!”  Well, I’ve searched and can’t find the darn thing.  It wasn’t time wasted, but suffice it to say one can get lost listening to Ted Talk, and this article almost missed the deadline.

Here’s what happened.  Take my word for it or not, your option.

The study was set up to define happiness with choices.  The researchers gave college students the choice of one of two paintings Army Books.  The college student gamer was offered a Dark Eldar or Chaos Space Marine Codex.


A)  Group A was told, “Okay mate, you can have either one you want.  Make your choice, and Phil Kelly is going to sign it for you straightaway.  It’s yours, but once the decision is made it can’t be undone.

B)  Group B was told, “Okay mate, you can have either one you want.  Take your choice home with you, but bring it back in two weeks.  At that point, you can change your mind if you want.  Then Phil Kelly is going to sign your final choice and off you go.

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So what do you think happened?

If you think Group A was happier, both immediately and long term, than you win!  The Church of Kelly embraces you – send TastyTaste ten bucks so he can plant your Seed of Faith in the Battlefield of Righteousness.

To break it down a bit more, members of Group B agonized over the decision…


…taking away whatever enjoyment might have been found in the act itself.  In life, we’re satisfied with what’s done; there is a spirit of acceptance there.  It then becomes hard to imagine it could have happened another way.

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I’m putting this nugget of hard-won scientific wisdom to use in my own life.  I have the Feast of Blades Invitational coming up in less than a month and I still haven’t decided on my army.  My game room is out of control, bursting at the seams with stuff I can work on.

I’m overwhelmed by choice.

Sixth Edition 40K has become a more complicated design rubric; every army is spoiled with options!  Fortifications?  Allies?  How will it play the objectives?  How will it handle ‘Cron Air?

I’m overwhelmed by choice.

These choices aren’t making me any happier right now; I chose the word ‘overwhelmed’ deliberately.  There is so much I want to do!  So many things I want to try!

So many models to ruin by painting them – I mean, the list goes on and on and on…  I have to make a decision and stick to it.


Ultimately, the science says I’ll be the happier for it.

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No, I’m not suggesting choice isn’t good.  Anyone who things so was probably a fan of the Dark Angels Codex – or the old CSM book.  Choice is great and options are awesome.

What I’m suggesting is it’s easy to get overwhelmed by it all and fail to make a choice entirely.  It seems to me that making a choice – and sticking to it – is the way to go.  The likelihood is you’ll be the happier for it.  And you’ll probably finish painting the army, to boot!

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EDIT:  Thanks to a geeky psychologist (Soundwave) for finding the video!  This video is well-worth the investment in watching it.

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Does the science of choice and happiness mean anything to you when applied to the hobby?  Any observations you care to make, or theories of your own you want to share?

This is the place to do it.

For myself, I’ll just say I love having options.  Choice is great!  It’s the decisions I’m finding hard to stick to… 


…thus all the unpainted miniatures!

So, thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and gropings?

Author: Brent
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