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Does second guessing improve our decisions or make us miserable?

 

Both.

Via escience news:

The paper, based on two studies of Florida State undergraduate volunteers, finds that the maximizers’ focus on finding the best option ultimately undermines their commitment to their final choices. As a result, the authors argue, “maximizers miss out on the psychological benefits of commitment,” leaving them less satisfied than their more contented counterparts, the satisficers.

Past research into the differences between maximizers and satisficers looked at how the two groups made choices differently and, more importantly, how the process itself varied. Ehrlinger’s research, however, looked at something else entirely: What happened after a choice was made?

“Because maximizers want to be certain they have made the right choice,” the authors contend, “they are less likely to fully commit to a decision.” And most likely, they are less happy in their everyday lives.

As I’ve posted before, maximizing (basically it means perfectionism) does lead to better choices, so having maximizers around can be a good thing. However, being one can lead to less happiness in the long run:

Expanding upon Simon’s (1955) seminal theory, this investigation compared the choice-making strategies of maximizers and satisficers, finding that maximizing tendencies, although positively correlated with objectively better decision outcomes, are also associated with more negative subjective evaluations of these decision outcomes. Specifically in the fall of their final year in school, students were administered a scale that measured maximizing tendencies and were than followed over the course of the year as they searched for jobs. Students with high maximizing tendencies secured jobs with 20 per cent higher starting salaries than did students with low maximizing tendencies. However, maximizers were less satisfied that satisficers with the jobs they obtained, and experienced more negative affect throughout the job-search process. These effects were mediated by maximizers’ greater reliance on external sources of information and their fixation on realized and unrealized options during the search and selection process.

Source: “Doing Better But Feeling Worse: Looking for the ‘Best’ Job Undermines Satisfaction” from Psychological Science, 2006, Volume: 17 | Issue: 2 | Pages: 143-50

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About Eric Barker