coffee hotdog bread slices weird sauce fork ready to eat breakfast photo

The Psychological Power of Options on Decision Making

I’m sure there’s a psychological term for it but I call it the ‘Hotdog Choice’ trick.

I noticed my sister with her kids, when it came time for dinner, would always offer them a choice.

“Okay, do you want hamburgers or hotdogs?”

The kids would always ponder and respond enthusiastically about what they wanted.

I asked her about it and she said, “Kids need the opportunity to make choices from a young age but need to be guided. Never leave a question open ended like ‘what do you want for dinner?’ Too much choice will leave them flustered, unsure and reaching for unrealistic options like ‘ice cream!’ That open- endedness teaches them nothing and doesn’t give them any control over their lives.”

She paused, looked at me skeptically and said, “C’mon, every parent knows this!”

I thought about it a lot and wondered if it worked on adults. So, I started applying it to my work. Instead of going to my boss and saying, “X happened what do we do?” I would do the legwork on the solutions before I brought them the problem and I always goldilocks’d the options and offered three choices, always three; the last being the most rational and the one I wanted them to choose. It has worked unbelievably well and I’ve used it on some pretty high level decisions that needed to be made at my agency— all because of hotdogs. [S]

The Revisionist

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