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Paralysis by Analysis

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"There are more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the universe. No one can possibly predict them all, not even you. Which means that the first move can be terrifying. It's the furthest point from the end of the game, there's a virtually infinite sea of possibilities between you and the other side... but it also means that if you make a mistake, there's a nearly infinite amount of ways to fix it. So you should simply relax, and play."
Harold Finch, Person of Interest, "If-Then-Else".

It's the final quarter. The game is still too close to call. The clock is counting down. There are seconds to go. You have the ball. It's all up to you. And you stand there. Think back to your training. Analyze the best response. And do absolutely nothing in the meantime.

Friend, you just choked.

Any time you're doing something you're accustomed to, something you're good at. Hell, you can be a recognized master in your field, but as soon as the pressure is on, you can choke. It can happen in sports. It can happen on game shows. It can happen in bed.

Expert athletes often talk about getting in "the zone", when they stop thinking about what they're doing it and just do it. This usually leads to perfect performances that crush the other team easily.

Choking occurs when, instead of getting in the zone and shutting off the thinking, the expert starts thinking about what he's doing. He starts trying to control everything, trying to account for every last variable. He gets in his head and because there's just too much to think about, he can't do anything. He's got the yips or, as The Other Wiki calls it, focal dystonia.

Compare with the Centipede's Dilemma. Contrast Awesomeness by Analysis.


Anime and Manga

  • Dragon Ball Super: Sidra, the resident God Of Destruction of Universe 9, is one of the least effective deities at his job because he can be quite indecisive when it comes to destroying planets. Perhaps as an indirect result of this, Universe 9 is the lowest ranking universe when it comes to overall quality and development of mortal life, right below Universes 6 and 7 (whose Gods of Destruction are Lazy Bums instead).
  • My Hero Academia: A problem Momo sometimes had in early fights was that her Quirk lets her make pretty much anything and she'd struggle to decide what she should make, slowing her reaction times. At least once, this cost her a fight she should have been able to easily win (against Tokoyami in the Sports Festival).

Fan Works

  • Legendarily Popular: Drake's Ditto copies Ash's Lapras, and freezes in indecision. Lapras was actually a disguised Mew; Ditto suddenly had access to several hundred moves, and had no idea where to begin.
    Drake: I don't know what moves that Lapras has.
    Ditto: Knowing them doesn't help!


  • 8 Mile: Bunny Rabbit's first time performing on stage leads to him freezing while the crowd chants "Choke! Choke! Choke!".
  • Bull Durham: Crash's rule #1, "Don't think, it'll only hurt the ballclub."
  • Teen Wolf: The eponymous teen opens the movie at the free throw line, way up in his head. He bounces. He bounces the ball. He bounces. He bounces. He bricks it. He is despised.
  • Tin Cup: Kevin Costner's eponymous character gets the yips when he's simultaneously worried about his love interest and the upcoming U.S. Open.


  • Ciaphas Cain: In one of the short stories, Vail points out that her savant Caractacus Mott is prone to this. He can get so caught up in calculating the optimum trajectory that he's unable to fire the frakking gun already.
  • Dungeon Core Chat Room: "Indecisive Earth"/Innearth chooses his name after receiving the "Indecisive" title for spending 5 hours agonising over his first choice of elemental affinity.
    OG: Hey, noob if you're seeing this you probably need a push.
  • Frank Stockton's story "The Discourager of Hesitancy" (the sequel to "The Lady, or the Tiger?") features a prince who freezes when told to make a decision on very little information and with his life on the line. The looming nearness of the Discourager — a large man with a larger sword — finally breaks him out of it, and he makes the correct choice. But the men who hear that story (they had come to ask what happened with the 'tiger' incident) get caught up in overthinking it and thus never get the answer they wanted.
  • In the P. G. Wodehouse short story "The Heart of a Goof", this turns out to be the key problem with aspirational golfer Ferdinand Dribble, the "goof" of the title. He's desperate to improve his game to impress the girl he loves and so studies every book and manual religiously. However, the sheer bombardment of clashing information this results in causes him to become indecisive and second-guess himself when it actually comes time to take his shot, meaning that he chokes. He winds up getting involved in a challenge with a rather smug pro, but circumstances conspire to convince him that the girl is in love with said pro, meaning his heart is broken — and as golf is naturally the last thing on his mind at that point, in his misery he subsequently can't be bothered thinking about everything he's "learned" and ends up playing the best game of his life.
  • Weaponised in the book Gamesmanship by Stephen Potter, where it's suggested that, when losing a game of golf, it's possible to put your opponent off their stroke by analysing the reasons why they're so much better than you are, while they're playing. They will become so self-conscious about their technique that this trope will come into play.
  • Saintess Summons Skeletons: When Sofia gets an assortment of excellent skill keywords like "[Divine ", "[Runic ", and " dominion]", she's so excited yet overwhelmed that she just stands and argues with herself about the best combinations, until the sun goes down and she has to sleep on it.

Live-Action TV

  • In 30 Rock, it happens to Jenna and Pete is able to help her because it happened to him in the Olympics.
  • In The Good Place, this seems to be at least one of Chidi's problems with making decisions. As a professor of moral philosophy, he tries to do all he can to live his life ethically, but there are many ways to see any dilemma. Should he use utilitarianism, or maybe virtue ethics? In which situation? Can he be sure another piece of information wouldn't change things? How can he ever be sure he's doing the most ethical thing? This means he has a hard time making decisions about even the smallest things. This ironically turns out to be what doomed him to the Bad Place: he was so obsessed by waffling about what the 'right' decision was that he never really made any meaningful decision, hurting people through inaction and indecisiveness and blotting his moral copybook regardless.
  • How I Met Your Mother: Happens to Barney in "The Yips". He runs into Rhonda, the older woman he lost his virginity to. She previously told him he was the best she ever had, and when he found out she was lying, he lost his confidence and had a hard time flirting with women, since he kept overthinking. He got it back when he slept with her again, and this time she said that he really was the best she's ever had.
  • NUMB3RS: Charlie's dad can't understand why the Cal Sci Basketball team is so poor (although Charlie points out, not unreasonably, that it's not really a burning concern for a bunch of science geeks) and convinces Charlie to try to improve them using "Scientific Methods". This only results in increasing frustration for Charlie as his methods fail to achieve anything. Ultimately, they only win thanks to his dad bringing in a couple of Ringers.
  • Psych: "Shawn Gets The Yips".
  • Scrubs: Elliot is unable to perform a tracheal intubation, an easy medical procedure she learned in her first week as an intern.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Peak Performance", Picard and Riker fight each other as part of a military exercise, and Data (who is acting as Picard's first officer) gets hit by this twice. First, he loses a strategy game to the Starfleet observer, and spends almost half the episode agonizing about his loss and analyzing his systems for what went wrong. Then, when Picard orders him to get his act together and come up with a strategy to defeat Riker, Data nearly does this to himself again by analyzing Riker's usual strategy, analyzing how Riker is likely to change his strategy knowing Data knows his strategy, analyzing how Riker is likely to not change his strategy knowing that Data knows Riker knows Data knows his usual strategy, etc.
  • Young Sheldon: In "The Yips and an Oddly Hypnotic Bohemian", Both Missy and Sheldon get "the yips" (with Sheldon thinking he caught them from Missy); Missy chokes on the pitcher's mound, Sheldon on his midterm exam. George's advice for Sheldon is to stop thinking about it, which Sheldon finds impossible to do until he discovers Bob Ross. As for Missy, Dale cures her yips by making her angry at him and have her take it out on the catcher's mitt.

Tabletop Games

  • "Analysis Paralysis" usually has a slightly different but related meaning when used in discussion of Tabletop Games. Some players become highly analytical in every game they play, always looking for the best possible move on every turn. However, some games have such a huge number of possible moves, with subtle and far-reaching consequences, that analyzing them all could take ludicrous amounts of time. (There's a reason why the chess clock was invented.) Others are designed as simple little family games, to be played quickly and casually, with little riding on the result; subjecting them to chess-master levels of analysis just gets ludicrous. Most tabletop games have a turn sequence, with each player waiting their turn, so the player who is paralyzed by analysis doesn't actually lose as a result; they just slow things down to a painful extent and make the game boring. A few tabletop games include components such as egg-timers to enforce time limits on turns, saving less analytical players from boredom.

Video Games

  • A Real Life version pops up with John Doe in Season 2 of Batman: The Telltale Series, who's struggling to adjust to life outside of Arkham.
    John: It's- it's the freedom that gets to you. There's so damn much, you hardly know what to do with it. It's not like Arkham. Sometimes I miss those padded walls. You knew where the lines were drawn. Which ones not to cross.
  • Kingdom of Loathing:
    • Weaponized with Ed the Undying's "Curse of Indecision", which stuns the opponent for several turns by making them aware of every possible outcome of of every possible move.
    • Parodied by the "Option Paralysis" trophy, which is earned by simultaneously dressing as a Red Shirt and having a status effect of "escorted by a Red Shirt".
    You're entitled to the "Option Paralysis" Trophy, for making it so your enemies have no idea who to kill first.

Web Comics

  • Dork Tower: Guest cartoonist Charlie Bates has Carson demonstrate the tabletop games version of the trope (see above) here.
  • The "Lair of the Trapmaster" in Oglaf is an empty room with "Overthinking" painted on one wall. The adventure party ends the strip still standing around wondering what it means.
  • xkcd #1445 has a graph showing the respective time costs of two strategies next to the far greater time cost of assessing which of the strategies is more efficient.

Web Original

  • Doormonster's aptly titled "Analysis Paralysis" shows that Ricky suffers from this trope - even in a game as simple as Candyland
  • The Noob webseries and novel imply that Sparadrap is completely immune to it (mentioning that "pressure has no effect on him"), which helps his real-life profession as a tennis player a lot.

Western Animation

  • Miraculous Ladybug: In Party Crasher, this occurs to the eponymous villain after the heroes start dancing around randomly to screw with his power. He's so overwhelmed by all the possibilities that his power shows him, he doesn't manage to land a single hit on any of them before his goggles (which contain his akuma) are knocked off and destroyed.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rainbow Dash has this issue, particularly when her idols, the Wonderbolts, are involved. For instance, in "Sonic Rainboom", she enters into a big stunt flying competition for which the Wonderbolts are judges. However, her inability to pull off the titular move a second time (after pulling it off once as a young filly) while practicing gives her pause for thought, which quickly snowballs into panic, and eventually leaves her practically catatonic with fear. Then she has to save Rarity and the 'Bolts from falling to their death, and Rainbooms without even thinking about it.
  • The Transformers: This is the primary weakness of the Technobots combiner Computron. He always thoroughly and completely analyzes every situation for the perfect response, but often arrives at that solution too late for it to be useful.

Real Life

  • Ken Jennings, who holds the longest win streak on Jeopardy!, once told an interviewer that the question he was most embarrassed about getting wrong was because he knew the answer. And he knew that he knew the answer. He just couldn't remember the answer, because he'd never sat down and studied the poem like he did with everything else. Because it was his father's favorite poem: "Jabberwocky".
  • Professional Greg Norman blew it out of the water for three days at the 1996 U.S. Master's. Then he tanked on the last day and finished five shots out of first (And That's Terrible).
  • Several baseball players have struggled with "the yips", the inability to do the one they've done since early childhood, throw a baseball:
    • Rick Ankiel was a promising young pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals at the turn of the millennium, finishing in the top ten in ERA and strikeouts in his rookie season at the age of 20. In the 2000 NL Division Series, he was selected to start Game 1, but mysteriously, his control abandoned him completely, walking four batters and setting a major league record with five wild pitches before being removed in the third. In his next playoff start, Ankiel threw five pitches over his catcher in the first inning. His control never recovered for reasons unknown, but Ankiel was able to salvage his career thanks to being a superb hitter, resurfacing in the majors a few years later as a converted outfielder with good power and, thanks to his pitching experience, an absolute cannon for an arm.
    • Chuck Knoblauch was an All-Star second baseman with the Twins and the dynastic Yankees of the late 90's. However, in 2000, he was unable to make routine throws from the relatively short distance of his position to first, even once airmailing a ball into the stands and clocking Keith Olbermann's mother in the face. Despite several methods on trying to correct it, eventually he forced out from his position into a full-time designated hitter, staying off the field.
    • Jon Lester, formerly of the Red Sox and currently with the Cubs, is one of the most established pitchers in baseball, with All-Star appearances and championship rings to his name. However, he apparently has issues with throwing to first, as he oddly went two years without attempting a pickoff to first (a relatively common tactic to keep baserunners close to first). Although he vehemently denied having an issue, it became so blatant of his aversion to throwing to first base that hitters have started to bunt towards Lester, forcing the catcher to come a long way to field it and throw to first, or having Lester do it. Like the other examples, no one's sure why Lester is uncomfortable with that throw in particular, especially since he has no such issues pitching effectively to home.
  • This trope is the basis of Somatic marker hypothesis: why emotions were evolved in humans and other animals as a means of avoiding them. Too much time spent trying to analyze one's situation could mean the difference between escaping a dangerous situation or not, if the situation you're in is so inconsiderate as to not remain static while the brain tries to work out the best solution. There is a story of a man whose brain had been damaged so that his emotional response was heavily muted but was otherwise fine — he found that he would spend upwards of two hours driving around a parking lot at his local grocery store because he, relying only on his brain's reasoning ability, couldn't decide on which spot to take.
  • For a non-sport related example, this can occur to people with sensory processing issues. The brain usually filters out most of the stimulus it receives. However, this process can fail to work properly, or simply not be able to cope with the amount of input received, resulting in a sheer deluge of data that's difficult to sift through efficiently.