The distractors, organizers and accomplice

Swapna Mirashi

Anyone who has prepared for and taken a multiple choice test, will be aware of the distractors among the choices. The sole purpose of these plausible but incorrect options is to confuse and distract the test taker from the one correct answer. The test itself is objective in nature, limited to choices of fixed alternatives and reducing subjective factors to the minimum.

Today’s life, and that includes childhood, is a series of multiple choice tests. Just that in this case, the choices are limitless, of which many are distractors.

Coffee? Espresso, latte, cappuccino, Americano?

Latte? Full milk, skinny milk, soy milk, decaf, regular?

Starbucks says it offers more than 80,000 drink combinations as per an article in Huffington Post.

There are 75 varieties of Olive Oil, 45 varieties of a single brand of spaghetti sauce.

According to a study in the United States, an average American makes on an average 70 choices every day.

Out of these multiple choices, a vast majority are distractors. They serve no more a purpose than confusing us and distracting us from the one correct choice we should be making.

Many researchers are studying choice. And their unanimous vote – more choices does not mean more happiness. In fact, too many choices paralyse, decrease satisfaction.

American psychologist and author of Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz says,

When there are lots of alternatives to consider, it is easy to imagine the attractive features of alternatives you reject that make you less satisfied with the alternative you have chosen.’

‘Too many options make a child anxious,’ Says Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting.

Giving a child too many choices overwhelms, confuses and distracts her. The result; an overstimulated, confused and bored child. An ipad with plenty of ‘child-friendly’ apps is a perfect tool to test this. My daughter was three, when I first realised that.

She had an amazing attention span for her age, since she was a baby. By the time she was three, she could sit and read a picture book. If left with a blank paper and few coloured markers, she could scribble or draw for close to an hour at a time. She would collect the most basic things (hair clips, bubble paper, cupcake wrappers, ear buds…) from around the house and play by herself for long spells, without getting bored, on the contrary with sparks in her eyes and smile on her face. But when with an ipad, she showed a different behaviour. My ipad had many apps for her to choose from. (Don’t we all do that?). Her ipad session was mainly switching apps too soon and would invariably end abruptly, with mostly me taking away the ipad due to her whining, crying or getting cranky. After this happened a few times,   

But the world is full of choices. Do we then stop giving children choices?