# Why do some people seem to disregard the choice of doing nothing (The Zero Choice)?

In many areas of life we have a choice between multiple options: if we are hungry and we want to go out to eat, we have a number of places to choose from (McDonalds, etc). However, we also still have the 'Zero Choice' (my terminology) of not eating out at all and getting food some other way.

In my personal life, I've noticed (perhaps falsly) that a fair number of people, once they've made a general choice (in the example: eating out), they disregard the 'Zero Choice' (not eating out) and become fixated on the sub-choices (where to eat out).

Is there a noticable difference in mental activity between people who don't consider the 'Zero Choice' and people who do?

Original Question:

In my life I've noticed that people rarely see the 'nothing' choice. Rather than choosing this or that, there is also the choice of neither and both. People I've interacted with often weigh their both, this, and that options fairly well, but many completely miss the neither/nothing option.

More specifically, I've seen this in a couple girlfriends I've had and a couple guy friends also. When trying to decide what to do, they'll settle on a type of activity (active/passive -> general category -> couple options) and then choose between a couple options. However, rarely in these options do they include the idea of something completely different. Meanwhile, this is something I do without thinking; other options are always present to me, and I have no difficulty in seeing, weighing, or choosing the neither option.

These are poor examples and for that I apologize; but is this a recognized phenomenon? What neural differences are there between people who process the nothing option and people who don't?

Has this even been researched at all? Cursory Googling (the most available to me right now) has revealed nothing; I could be searching for the wrong thing though...

• I think this question is borderline self-help and thus off-topic. I also don't see a strong research effort in formulating this question. – Artem Kaznatcheev Feb 8 '12 at 18:41
• I'm somewhat unclear on what the "zero choice" is... Can you come up with a better example, Ben? – Josh Feb 8 '12 at 19:05
• The same reason non-scientists love to ignore the null-hypothesis I suppose... – Ben Brocka Feb 8 '12 at 19:15
• I tried to reformulate the question to be more clear and less subjective/self-help. There still isn't a strong research effort, mostly because I don't really know what I'm looking for. If someone can give me some established terminology or ideas as a starting point, however, I'll try and come back with something more concrete... – BenCole Feb 8 '12 at 19:45
• Another similar omission is forgetting to consider “negative” actions, that is, stopping actions that are underway (e.g. removing existing pollution sources, disinvesting, etc.). Salo and Hamalainen (2010) call them “errors of omission”. Salo A, Hamalainen RP (2010) Multicriteria Decision Analysis in Group Decision Processes. In Handbook of Group Decision and Negotiation, Advances in Group Decision and Negotiation, 4(3): 269-283 – decision maker Dec 28 '16 at 2:49