Quick, think back to a major decision. You know, the kind that compelled you to read everything on a topic and lead you to spend hours devouring every last scrap of data.
How'd that work out for you?
We like to think that more information drives smarter decisions; that the more details we absorb, the better off we'll be. It's why we subscribe to Google Alerts, cling to our iPhone, and fire up our TweetDeck. Knowledge, we're told, is power. But what if our thirst for data is actually holding us back? What if obsessing over information actually reduces the quality of our decisions?
That's the question raised by Princeton and Stanford University psychologists in a fascinating study titled On the Pursuit and Misuse of Useless Information. Their experiment was simple. Participants were divided into two groups. Group 1 read the following: Imagine that you are a loan officer at a bank reviewing the mortgage application of a recent college graduate with a stable, well-paying job and a solid credit history. The applicant seems qualified, but during the routine credit check you discover that for the last three months the applicant has not paid a $5,000 debt to his charge card account......