Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Are You Too Picky in Life and in Love?

Some people are overly choosy, others are impulsive. Which are you?

Key points

  • Certain people are particularly choosy when it comes to making decisions about what to eat, what to wear, what to buy, and who to date.
  • Being overly picky or choosy involves elements of personality, behavioral patterns, and cognitive processing.
  • Choosy people are slow to act, and non-choosy individuals tend to be impulsive but adjust easily and rationalize their decisions.

Do you know someone (maybe you?) who is exceptionally picky when it comes to the food to eat, the clothes to wear, or the people to date? Well, choosiness is a little-studied personality characteristic. Choosy people tend to be somewhat overly analytical – they carefully weigh the pros and cons of most decisions. As a result, they tend to take a lot of time to make up their minds. But choosiness also has some roots in personality.

Remember Jerry from Seinfeld? He was extremely picky regarding the people he dated. Any physical flaw, no matter how small, was Jerry’s reason for rejecting a possible dating partner. I had a friend who was like that. He didn’t like the shape of the girl’s chin, or the way she pronounced a particular word, or another whose ears were “too large for her face.” As a result, he rarely dated anyone.

Choosiness as a Personality Characteristic

Pickiness has some temperamental aspects to it. There may be elements of obsessive compulsiveness and emotionality. Research suggests that children who are picky eaters, for example, have higher levels of emotionality.

A waitress told me a story of a particular picky woman. The restaurant had a special salad with tons of ingredients. This woman would go down the list of ingredients and say, “I don’t like cucumbers, take that out…take out the cilantro, no tomatoes, etc.” The waitress said that by the time she was done, it was a salad of just iceberg lettuce! People who are not picky – the opposite end of the spectrum – tend to be more impulsive, flexible, and open to experience.

Choosiness as a Behavior Pattern and Cognitive Elements

Our research found that some people are only picky in particular areas of their lives – eating, dating, or when evaluating goods for purchase, although most were picky in most things. Choosy/picky people tend to analyze, and often overanalyze, the choices that they are about to make. Some of them can drive salespersons crazy as they hesitate, evaluate, and hesitate again (“I don’t like it in that style, but the color is fine. I’d like a different fabric, though. No, maybe I need to see something else.”).

A contractor, who was remodeling a couple of houses, told me the story of two extreme clients. The first, who was extremely choosy, took forever to decide on bathroom fixtures, appliances, cabinets, and paint. That client had 18 splotches of paint put on the wall before deciding on the “just right’ color, which was then changed a couple of times down the line. The other client, the non-picky one, looked at a three, similar colors and said, “they’re all ok, you choose.”

While choosy individuals may take a long time to decide, be analytical, and slow to act, non-choosy people’s impulsiveness may lead to snap, and unwise, decisions. Non-choosy people may also make their snap decisions, and rationalize them to make them fit, even if it wasn’t the best decision in the first place.

Which are you?

Do you obsess over details before making a decision, or do you jump right in, with eyes half-shut?

Do you focus a lot on the negatives when making a purchase or deciding on who to date, or do you make a quick decision and try to “make it fit?”


Cheng, A., Baumgartner, H., & Meloy, M. G. (2021). Identifying picky shoppers: Who they are and how to spot them. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 31(4), 706-725.

Kauer, J., Pelchat, M. L., Rozin, P., & Zickgraf, H. F. (2015). Adult picky eating. Phenomenology, taste sensitivity, and psychological correlates. Appetite, 90, 219-228.

Riggio, R.E., & Fleming, T. Validation of a measure of trait choosiness. Presented at meeting of the American Psychological Society, Washington, D.C., June, 1991

More from Psychology Today

More from Ronald E. Riggio Ph.D.

More from Psychology Today