Does Delaying Decisions Lead to Better Outcomes?

When they conducted a series of experiments, reported recently in Psychological Science, participants were asked to choose between a default and an alternative. 82% opted for the default when making the choice straight away, but when delayed this dropped to 56%.

The authors conclude by saying that:

“…electing to delay making a choice is taken as a sign of doubt about which option is best, a state that tends to be attributed disproportionately to the normative option, lessening its appeal.”

We may actually take the very fact that we are delaying as a message from our unconscious that we’ve got doubts about the default option, even though those doubts are probably about the decision as a whole. The default option bears the brunt of these doubts because that’s what we’re thinking about most of the time. It’s a simple association.

And so the answer to whether delaying a choice leads to a better decision is: it depends what the default decisions is. When the default is better, the decision will be worse; whereas if the alternative is better, it will be an improvement.

Niels van de Ven and colleagues conclude with the key insight:

“…decision makers should be aware that the decision to delay making a choice is not a neutral act: It alters the choices they make in a predictable direction.”

If you delay, you’ll move away from the default. That fact needs to be built into your decision, whatever you are trying to decide about.


Join over 320,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

New Neuroscience Reveals 4 Rituals That Will Make You Happy

New Harvard Research Reveals A Fun Way To Be More Successful

How To Get People To Like You: 7 Ways From An FBI Behavior Expert

Posted In:
Post Details