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Can’t make a decision? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that.

We all experience the classic day-to-day decisions: where to eat or what to wear. Now bigger choices like where to go to college are becoming easier with the help of decision-making apps, such as ChoiceMap.

So how does this app work? You describe a choice, or pick one from the given templates, and describe all the potential outcomes for that choice, as well as the factors that influence your thinking when making the choice. For example, if you are deciding on which car to buy, cost may be the biggest factor. You would rate each possible car based on price, from high to low, on the scale. Then you rate these factors for each possible outcome. Once you have done all of this, the app will use an algorithm to calculate the best option, and will show the results for each possible outcome through separate bar graphs. Of course, like any app these days, you can share your results through various social media outlets. Twitter and Facebook seem to be the most popular way to spread the word. Following ChoiceMap, three other similar apps have come out this year with similar decision-making software.

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 6.52.52 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 6.53.26 PM

 Both images taken as screen shots by Devin Collins, courtesy of the iTunes App Store

I decided (no pun intended) to try ChoiceMap for myself. During my personal use with the app, I found it to be easy to use and interesting; however, I had some questions about ChoiceMap and its ultimate goals. I wasn’t sure how to rate my factors that influence my choice because there is no scale to base the ratings off of. I also felt bounded by the final result. I wanted the ability to add more factors and outcomes at a later time because I forgot something or changed my mind throughout the process of making the decision.

While I am certainly an advocate for being #appenabled, I am not entirely convinced that ChoiceMap and other apps like it are enabling their users. The apps provide a space to “map out” or assess potential outcomes for choices, but the apps don’t necessarily provide the user with any decision-making tools. And should they? I would argue that any app is not useful unless it adds some kind of value (a skill, help, pleasure) to the user. In this case, decision-making skills are not something that can be learned by plugging words and ratings into a phone or tablet. This skill takes experience, time and trial-and-error to learn. Choices won’t always be as easy as the ChoiceMap results make them out to be.

Now that an app exists to make calculated choices, will we stop flipping coins? At what point do apps actually disable us from living our lives freely? In the end of the day, the apps can’t make the choice for you, only you can make the choice. And only you have to deal with the consequences of that choice.

Featured image courtesy of Flick user JardimSecreto

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