Pretend, and make better decisions

Have you ever received two invites to events on the same date and struggled with the right choice to make? You might know which one you would prefer to attend, but you find yourself holding off out of a sense of duty for the second event.

Chances are if it was a friend in your shoes you would encourage them to go to the event that was likely to provide the most fun.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison believe this is the key to better decision-making when you can’t make up your mind: pretend to help someone else make up their mind.

The researchers conducted a study into decision-making that found that people preferred to make decisions for others.

This is something I can verify from personal experience. Whether it is career advice, relationship advice or financial advice, choosing the right option is always easier when you are helping friends make up their mind. When it is up to you to make the decision, things get much harder.

In the study, some people answered survey questions about how they would respond in certain situations, while the rest of the participants made choices for other people in the same hypothetical scenarios.

The scientists found that people preferred to decide for others. 

“It’s less draining, less taxing, and generally just less annoying than making choices for ourselves,” explains researcher Dr Evan Polman.

The explanation for this is that when making your own decisions you spend a lot of time and energy thinking about every possible outcome and develop ‘decision fatigue’.

Then, when you are tired of considering all the consequences, you end up picking the most convenient option, even if it isn’t the best decision.

When you are offering friends advice, you are not under any stress, as they are the ones who have to deal with the repercussions.

“Thinking how you’d decide for others can reveal ideas and solutions you wouldn’t normally come up with,” says Dr Polman.

Do you have any strategies for making difficult decisions?

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Written by Ben

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