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The biggest problem I have with romance in anime (or really, any work of fiction) is the perceived inevitability of it. Romance is such a huge part of modern society that in some ways, being in a relationship is seen as the norm. Take almost any show or movie with both a male and a female protagonist, and chances are they will end up together by the time the end credits roll. This gets especially ridiculous in harem anime, where a seemingly endless cavalcade of girls will fight over one guy just because he is The Protagonist. Like, I know Sword Art Online is the ultimate low-hanging fruit of anime criticism, but why is it that so many girls in that show are in love with a socially awkward game otaku?


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Bloom Into You is the story of Yuu Koito, a shy teenage girl whose only experience with love is from the idealized romances of shoujo manga. When she joins the student council, she meets Touko, a beautiful, intelligent, and assertive girl who seems to have everything going for her in life. When Touko confesses her feelings to Yuu at the end of the first episode, it seems like a fairy tale romance waiting to happen. But when they kiss, Yuu feels, well, nothing.

Choice overload, also known as overchoice, choice paralysis, or the paradox of choice, describes how people get overwhelmed when they are presented with a large number of options to choose from. While we tend to assume that more choice is a good thing, in many cases, research has shown that we have a harder time choosing from a larger array of options.

There is a widespread assumption that more choice equals more freedom, and more freedom is always, unambiguously, a good thing. But the empirical evidence on choice overload contradicts this idea: in many cases (though not universally), more variety makes our lives harder and less pleasant. As psychologist Barry Schwartz has argued, our approach to life is so rooted in this individualist ethos that we struggle to see how choice overload is harming us. The effects of this bias go beyond complicating our decision-making process: it also has a big impact on our affective (emotional) experience, decreasing our satisfaction with the choices we make and increasing the likelihood that we will regret those choices.

As expected, participants who received the larger catalog experienced more choice overload and were less satisfied with their choices. They also rated their choice of camcorder significantly lower on the expectation disconfirmation question. In other words, the more products people had to choose from, the worse they felt their chosen camcorder stacked up with their initial expectations.4

A couple of decades later, choice overload started to receive attention as a subject of psychological research. In 1995, Sheena Iyengar, one of the foremost experts on choice, conducted the famous jam study. Barry Schwartz started researching choice overload in the early 2000s and published The Paradox of Choice in 2004.

As mentioned above, choice plays a particularly important role in American culture: the freedom to make decisions for oneself is considered essential. This might be why we experience so much choice overload: whereas in the past, many decisions would have been made collectively, or made for us by experts, nowadays, the burden of choice is virtually always with the individual.

We have limited cognitive resources, so having more options to consider drains our mental energy more quickly, overwhelming us. Trying to maximize (i.e. finding the best option) also makes us prone to choice overload, as does preference uncertainty.

As we get older, we become more susceptible to choice overload, which can in turn make us more vulnerable to fraud. This article explains, in more detail, why older adults are more likely to fall for scams, and what you can do to counteract these effects.

AFTERBURN, by Colin Harrison. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25.) Elegant prose and exact description keep this thriller flying with an overload of unlikely characters (the heroine is a mathematical genius jailed for hijacking trucks). 041b061a72


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