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When Prompting People to Make a Choice, the Consequence of Not Choosing Matters

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https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/when-prompting-people-to-make-choice-the-consequence-of-not-choosing-matters

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When Prompting People to Make a Choice, the Consequence of Not Choosing Matters
People often neglect to make decisions about issues ranging from 401(k) enrollment to organ donation. One way to address this neglect is to require people to actively choose. But in a new study, Yale SOM’s James Choi and his colleagues found that the implicit default—what happens if people refuse to make an active choice despite the requirement—affects whether they make a choice.

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The Default Choice

The Default Choice

While prompted to make a decision with a given set of options, a person has the freedom to refuse to actively make a choice.

The decision-making process of the person is affected by the

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How Economic Incentives Affect Our Choices

If a person is told about the economic incentives of their selection, they are more likely to make an active choice.

If the person is told about the pros and cons of their ...

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Rewards And Penalties

Organizations need to understand when to provide a reward to the person making the choice to promote active choice-making, or to initiate a penalty to make them provide a concrete answer.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Default choices

Default choices

90% of your daily decisions happen automatically, many shaped by your environment. Thus, most decisions are a habit, not a deliberate choice.

To make smarter choices, design smarter...

Designing your life

Design your life like a choice architect:

  • Encourage smarter decisions you want to do by making them more accessible.
  • Add friction to habits you want to quit, making them less accessible, or remove the option to perform them completely.

Richard Thaler

Richard Thaler

“First, never underestimate the power of inertia. Second, that power can be harnessed.” 

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A different mindset when choosing for others

We adopt an adventurous mindset that stands in contrast to the more cautious mindset that rears when people make their own choices.

We see the best solution with clarity a...

Cautious mindset vs. an adventurous mindset

  • When choosing for ourselves, we focus more on a granular level, something we describe as a cautious mindset.
  • When it came to deciding for others, we look more at the array of options and focus on their overall impression. We are bolder when we're operating from an adventurous mindset.

Taking an outside perspective

We should work to distance ourselves from our own problems by adopting a fly-on-the-wall perspective and act as our own advisors.

Another distancing technique is to pretend that our decision is someone else's and visualize it from his or her perspective. By imagining how someone else would tackle your problem, people may unwittingly help themselves.

Social norms

People tend to conform to behaviors that are common among other people, even when they know that those people did not make their choices freely, and when the decision does not mirror their own desi...

Common reasons for conforming

  • One common explanation: we that if everyone else is choosing to do one thing, it is probably a good thing to do.
  • Another common explanation: we fear that failing to follow a norm may have negative social consequences.

The self-categorization theory

The idea of the self-categorization theory is that people conform to the norms of certain social groups whenever they have a personal desire to feel like they belong.

It is irrelevant whether a norm reflects people's preference, as long as the behavior is associated with the group.

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Curiosity leads us to generate alternatives

Curiosity leads us to generate alternatives

When our curiosity is triggered, we are less likely to fall prey to confirmation bias (looking for information that supports our beliefs rather than for evidence suggesting we are ...

Curiosity and innovation

Encouraging people to be curious generates workplace improvements.

When we are curious, we view tough situations more creatively. Studies have found that curiosity is associated with less defensive reactions to stress and less aggressive reactions to provocation.

Reduced group conflict

Curiosity encourages members of a group to put themselves in one another’s shoes and take an interest in one another’s ideas rather than focus only on their own perspective.

Thus, conflicts are less heated, and groups achieve better results.

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Decision-making obstacles

Decision-making obstacles
Psychological reasons why we find decision-making difficult right now:
  • The realness of the present threat: the new virus is really contagious and people are dying from ...

The pandemic and our biases

The threat, uncertainty, and anxiety related to the pandemic lead us to make short-sighted decisions:

  • we crave more information so we are spending a lot of time looking for news updates relating to the virus and its spread. But too much negative news causes stress and distraction.
  • the lack of agency causes people to seek out actions that will make them feel more in control. Early on, this took the form of buying hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol.

Financial decisions

People want to take action quickly, even when inaction might be more prudent.
Faced with anxiety, some are making quick decisions about finances as well and started fear selling their stocks. But this is taking a paper loss in the present that is likely to come back in the future (given the way stock markets have acted in the past).

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Detecting Loneliness

Detecting Loneliness
  • Scientific literature has linked loneliness to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
  • Loneliness makes you more likely to fall ill by suppressing healthy immune function....

Loneliness is subjective

It's possible to be completely isolated and feel invigorated.

It is also possible to be surrounded by a crowd or be accompanied by close friends and feel lonely.

Research on loneliness findings

  • Research showed that after social isolation, subjects' brain scans showed more activity in the midbrain when shown pictures of social cues.
  • When subjects were hungry but had not been socially isolated, they showed a similar reaction to food cues, but not social ones. This shows that the drive for social contact and for things like food seems to be represented in a similar way.

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We all make bad decisions

While we may not like to admit this, we all are making a lot of bad decisions, be it our personal lives, careers or in our jobs. Here is what research says about making good decisions:

The right information, not more

If there is too much information, we tend to make the wrong decision, and even if our decision is well-researched and considered right, we end up dissatisfied. 

The right information, even if less, provides clarity to make the right decision.

Gut feelings vs logic

A gut feeling, or an instinct, is often the right path, and points towards the right decision.

Ultra-rational, logical and unemotional decision-making does not guarantee that the decision taken will be the right one.

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Wisdom Of The Crowd

Collective intelligence or group thinking is an idea that by many minds working together, we can correct each other's errors in judgment and provide good results.

Companies employ intelligent...

Groupthink

The phenomenon of 'Groupthink' leads to ego clashes and reinforcement of existing biases. They somethings fail to reach any decision and may complicate matters further by incorporating all points of view. Design by Committee is something best avoided.

Brainstorming, on the other hand, involves creative, divergent thinking, which is different from the restrained, critical thinking that may be required to come to a decision.

Collective Intelligence

An extensive study in 'Groupthink' which included testing the social sensitivity, as well as the IQ of the individuals, showed that:

  • Equal participation was a key ingredient of better performance. Group dynamics can get worse if team members clash frequently.
  • If team members are pitted against each other for a common prize, like a promotion, then group work suffers.
  • If team members are not open to ideas from other members or are interrupting them, it can sabotage group performance.
  • Teams with a higher proportion of women have better collective intelligence.

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The bandwagon effect

It's a cognitive bias that causes people to think or act in a certain manner because they believe that other people are doing the same.

For example, the bandwagon effect might cause...

Examples of the bandwagon effect

  • The bandwagon effect can influence people’s political choices.
  • It can influence consumers’ decisions regarding which products to buy.
  • It can influence users’ decisions regarding how to rate stories or comments.
  • It can influence investors’ financial choices.
  • It can influence doctors’ medical decisions.
  • It can influence organizations’ implementation of new technologies.

Why the bandwagon effect happens

It serves as a mental shortcut that people instinctively use in order to make a decision quickly.

Specifically, bandwagon cues, which are signs that other people believe something or are doing something, can trigger the thought that “if other people like this, then I should too”.

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Decide What You Want

Waiting around often means you’re not happy with any of the options, because they’re not right for who you are. So, when you find yourself stuck between possibilities, think about what you rea...

Being “Supposed To" Choose Something

If you’re feeling pressured into making the decision that looks good, step back and examine your reasoning.

If you can’t come up with a good answer, you know it’s not for you.

Do Something

Remember that doing something trumps doing nothing.

For example, instead of being afraid of choosing the wrong job and suffering through the same job you have been hating for years, imagine taking a job that is not the ideal, but giving your all and building on it. This will help you advance, lead projects and develop your skills and resume. You'll be more at ease to change jobs at that point.

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