The ‘analysis Paralysis’; When Thinking Too Much Becomes A Problem

Some people stop acting because of too much reflection.

Our day to day is completely crossed by a multitude of decisions. Some of them are also quite important: deciding what car to buy, choosing which course to enroll in, confessing something to someone or not, etc. Being in a situation of having to make a relevant decision can be a  source of anxiety, and we are not always able to manage these types of emotions. 

Many times, instead of taking action and exposing ourselves to the negative consequences of the mistake,  we get stuck in the point of imagining the possible scenarios that will occur when we behave in one way or another. This psychological state very well portrays a concept that has emerged within decision theory: the paralysis of analysis.

What is analysis paralysis ?

Defined far above, analysis paralysis is an error in decision-making that occurs when a person or a computer is immobilized in the prior analysis phase of the problem and a concrete action plan is never implemented. 

Taking it further to the field of  psychology, analysis paralysis can be defined as the situation in which someone is immersed in imagining possible options but never uses any of them and no plan is materialized.

Let’s go to the concrete

Have you ever thought about writing a novel, movie or series? Have you stopped to think about the characters and situations that could appear in it? 

You may have been thinking a lot about the plot and the elements that could appear in this work of fiction, and it is also very possible that the vast number of possibilities that open up before you have seemed so overwhelming that you have not even written more. than a few schematic first pages. This scenario is an example of the paralysis of analysis, because the previous analysis, far from becoming a means to an end, becomes a difficult obstacle to overcome and, no matter how much it contributes to getting you involved in a plan or project. , it never develops.

Of course, analysis paralysis doesn’t have to be limited to cases where you want to produce something material. It can also appear in your relationship with other people. Here’s a fictitious example that will probably sound familiar to you:

How will you take it if I tell you like this? No, I better say it this other way … or not, better this way. Although this would have the problem that … This constant reflection on what to do and the consequences of the actions can mean that we do not know how to decide on any of the options, leading us towards a dynamic of inaction.

Opportunity cost and real world problems

Of course, analysis paralysis would not be a problem if analyzing possible situations and anticipating problems that might arise did not consume time and effort. However, in the real world, overthinking things can make things never happen. 

The opportunity cost is what turns the paralysis of the analysis into a problem, and it is for this reason that we should take the analysis phase of the possible decisions according to their practicality. Stopping to analyze something for too long deprives us not only of other experiences, but also of learning based on experience, trial and error. Analyzing what is there and what can happen is useful because it serves to act accordingly, not because the simple fact of recreating ourselves in whatever comes to mind during this phase is going to provide us with some kind of material benefit.

It should also be borne in mind that there are cases in which analysis paralysis is only apparent. Someone who has a good time imagining possible novels may not really intend to write anything: they just do mental gymnastics . In the same way, imagining things or even making plans in a systematic way can be stimulating in and of itself, as long as these thoughts have nothing to do with a real situation that requires a response. Learning to distinguish between the two types of situations may take some practice, but spending time looking at those things can translate into real benefits.

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