The president’s suit

by Site Author

In an interview with Michael Lewis, Obama mentions that he only wears gray and blue suits.

You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Obama is probably referring to research on “decision fatigue.”

Decisions are costly. The more decisions you make, the more exhausted you become. If you don’t take a break, you end up making some bad decisions.

One of the best known studies on this comes from Israel. (A great summary is available here). Shai Danziger, Jonathan Levav, and Liora Avnaim-Pesso demonstrate that Israeli judges seem to parole fewer defendants the longer it has been since they’ve eaten. The figure below is that paper’s “killer graph.”


The dashed lines above represent breaks for meals. If you’re asking for parole, do it right after breakfast.

And so there you have it. An academic literature, likely filtered through some popular non-fiction, ends up changing what the president wears each day.