When I think of my favorite restaurants, the ones I have visited many times, it is striking how few of the menu items I have tried. And when I think of all the lunch places near my workplace, I realize that I keep going to the same places again and again.
Habits are powerful. We persist with many of them because we tend to give undue emphasis to the present. Trying something new can be painful: I might not like what I get and must forgo something I already enjoy. That cost is immediate, while any benefits — even if they are large — will be enjoyed in a future that feels abstract and distant. Yes, I want to know what else my favorite restaurant does well, but today I just want my favorite dish.
Overconfidence also holds us back. I am unduly certain in my guesses of what the alternatives will be like, even though I haven’t tried them.
Many so-called choices are not really choices at all. Walking down the supermarket aisle. I act without thinking.
Experimentation is an act of humility, an acknowledgment that there is simply no way of knowing without trying something different.
Understanding that truth is a first step, but it is important to act on it.
Sendhil Mullainathan writing in the New York Times