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6 Examples of Decision Fatigue

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Decision fatigue is stress and exhaustion that results from intensive decision making. Decisions can be a cognitive challenge as they can involve dozens of variables, estimates, probabilities, evaluation of complex trade-offs, dealing with uncertainty and emotions related to risk. The following are common types of decision fatigue.

Decision Avoidance

Delaying and avoiding a decision that needs to be made. For example, a student in financial distress needs to either sell their car, drop out of school or find another source of funding. They do nothing and end up getting kicked out of school for non-payment of tuition.

Ambiguity Effect

Individuals commonly avoid choices that involve uncertainty. This is related to decision fatigue as uncertainty tends to make decisions more intensive, complex and stressful. Individuals who avoid uncertainty may make poor choices. For example, a customer chooses a brand they recognize over a brand they don't recognize even though it is more expensive, has poor reviews and lacks features they require. The brand they avoid better suits their needs and is more likely to be high quality based on reviews. This is common behavior as consumers are known to heavily favor brands they recognize even if they have no positive experiences with that brand.

Impulse Decisions

Making decisions quickly with little thought. For example, a consumer who finds dealing with automotive salespeople stressful so they rush a purchase by buying based on a simple heuristic such as "this one is good enough."


Individuals who make a large number of decisions may experience a decline in performance due to decision fatigue. For example, a software engineer is dealing with a failure of a service used by millions of people. Initially, they make high quality decisions. However, after working under stressful conditions for several hours the quality of their decisions starts to deteriorate.

Fast Moving Situations

Decision fatigue can impact your performance in fast moving situations. For example, a customer service manager who made hundreds of decisions over the course of a shift might be worse at driving at the end of her shift due to decision fatigue. For example, a decision to brake and swerve in response to an object on the road.

Personal Resilience

The ability to make a large number of reasonable decisions without becoming exhausted is an element of personal resilience that can be improved. This is important to job roles such as executive leadership, astronaut or stock trader that involve a large number of decisions in a fast moving environment characterized by complexity, risk and uncertainty.


Decision fatigue is a human factor that has implications for training, design, safety, marketing and influencing.
Overview: Decision Fatigue
Stress and exhaustion that results from intensive decision making.
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