Nick Tasler

The Impulse Factor

Born Decisive: Why It's So Hard To Keep Up with Kim Kardashian

The psychology of Kim Kardashian.

Posted Nov 23, 2011

If you have not been Keeping up with the Kardashians or found yourself in a grocery store checkout lane within the past year, allow me to bring you up to speed. Twelve months ago, Kim Kardashian decided to go on a date with NBA basketball player, Kris Humphries.  In May, Kim decided to accept his engagement proposal.  In August, she decided to say "yes" at the altar.  In October, she decided to file for divorce.    


The research of psychologist Georges Potworowski at the University of Michigan suggests that indecisive behavior usually takes one of four forms.  

1. Delay Decisions  -  If you need to check in with roughly half of your Facebook friends before you choose what to have for lunch, or read at least 47 customer reviews before buying a book, you might be falling victim to the first type of indecisiveness.  And if you do it all under the banner of "prudence" or "conscientiousness" then delay might be a go-to habit for you.

Like the majority of brides-to-be, Kardashian accepted her boyfriend's proposal and the ginormous ring that accompanied it right there on the spot.  No indecisiveness there.  

2. Withhold Commitment - So, you have that holiday party coming up.  Are you going, or will you take a wait-and-see approach?  If you routinely fail to RSVP to gatherings of any kind until you show up on the host's doorstep, you are "withholding commitment."  Perhaps you're afraid of hurting someone's feelings by choosing a different friend's party.  Maybe you think that if you commit to this party too soon, another better party will come along.  Either way, you're being indecisive.  (If I'm honest, this is the form of indecisive behavior I battle most.)

Once again, Kim Kardashian passes the test.  She made the commitment to get married and then followed through with the ceremony.  

3. Fail to Decide - But you could do worse than showing up at the last minute.  Two hours after the party starts, you could still be sitting at home agonizing over whether to make an appearance.  Potworowski's research points to a few different reasons this happens.  Maybe you're worried about who will be there and what they will think of your new haircut? Maybe your spouse or BFF isn't there to tell you what to do? Or maybe organization isn't your strong suit and you just lost the invitation?

These are issues many people face.  However, Kim Kardashian seems to be an exception.

4. Waffle  - Look no further than my family's vacation debacle.  When you decide to stay at the Sandy Lodge, but then rethink it and opt for the Seashell Inn.  But then wonder what you might miss at the Sandy Lodge and...well, you get the picture.  If you go back and forth more than once, then I'm afraid you are waffling. Or maybe not. But probably, yes.

Indeed, Kim Kardashian pulled a classic flip-flop maneuver just 72 days after pledging her eternal love. But that is not necessarily waffling. You, me, and the Kardashians all occasionally make decisions that don't turn out like we had hoped.  So we correct our decisions.  Like one out of every two Americans, Kardashian decided that her marriage wasn't right. Unlike most people, however, she acted on that assessment almost immediately.  Should she have stuck it out and tried to work through it? Was the whole marriage a publicity ruse? Perhaps. But unless she crawls back to Humphries and then re-divorces him, it's hard to say she is waffling.


If we continue peeling back the layers on Potworowski's research to look at what drives indecisive behavior, we find even more evidence for Kardashian's decisive disposition.  Kardashian seems to be relatively well organized, but not really a perfectionist (indecisive behavior is related to very low and very high conscientiousness scores).  She appears to have plenty of self-confidence.  She doesn't seem prone to neurotic meltdowns, tantrums or obsessive worrying-exactly the kinds of things, reality TV loves to capture on film.  She also exhibits plenty of social boldness and social self-esteem (Exhibit A: sex tape). 

Of course, being decisive doesn't automatically lead to a sex tape or a reality TV show.  What you do with your decisiveness will depend largely on your Decision Pulse.  Kardashian likely has a Power Pulse which might be different from your Decision Pulse.  (Biggest Loser contestant, Patrick Ferrari has a Humanity Pulse and therefore makes decisive choices in a very different direction than Kardashian). 

But if you can find a way to look beyond Kardashian's flashy pseudo-celebrity lifestyle and narcissistic tendencies, you might just find a successful model for decisive behavior.

About the Author

Nick Tasler is an organizational psychologist and the internationally acclaimed author of four books on change and decision making.

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