Opinion: Being less or more confident of the choice
that has been made cannot affect the outcome. It can, however, influence future ones.
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN an indecisive person. What to wear, which menu item to pick, when to do house chores, always thinking through scenarios before committing to even the most trivial of choices.
If this sounds like you, you’re certainly not unusual: Many people struggle with these issues. Our new research may not be able to help you choose which restaurant to go to, but it might reassure you. Decisive people may be more confident in the choices they make, but they are no better at making decisions than the rest of us.
The starting point for my recent study into the differences between decisive and indecisive people was finding a reliable way of distinguishing between participants. My team used the Action Control Scale, a yes or no questionnaire about everyday choices and behavior. For example, whether you get bored quickly after learning a new game.
This scale can reveal whether a person is active or state-oriented:
We compared the following cognitive processes between the two groups:
The only difference between the two groups, across all the experiments, was that action-oriented people were more confident in their choices. There were no differences in accuracy, speed, cautiousness, bias, or sensitivity. The action-oriented group was more confident, despite not being in any way better, faster, or more accurate.
Certainly, it can seem excessive and sometimes debilitating when you can’t even decide what to have for lunch. Indecisiveness can hinder our ability to pursue our goals. For example, exercise becomes difficult if each morning we second-guess ourselves and deliberate on staying in bed.
But our research suggests that indecisive people are in no way worse at making choices. We can process evidence as fast and harness prior knowledge just as effectively as decisive people (and careful consideration can pay dividends when making life-changing choices, like choosing a university or buying a house — even if, as a millennial, this is only an issue in theory).
Being less or more confident of the choice that has been made cannot affect the outcome. It can, however, influence future ones. State-oriented people are less confident about whether the choice is right, which makes pursuing our goals a much greater challenge.
It is easy to see how this can relate to things such as preparing for an exam, exercising, or learning a new skill. If you have low confidence that you are making meaningful progress, it can discourage regular practice. The reasons for this confidence gap are yet to be properly explained. But some research suggests a link with how people regulate their emotions. This confidence gap might be the reason why some people succeed where others do not.
This article was originally published on The Conversation by Wojciech Zajkowski at Cardiff University. Read the original article here
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