Crippled by indecision? Maybe you're focusing on the wrong thing

November 14, 2005

In an article in the forthcoming December 2005 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers compare the focusing on the process of decision-making to focusing on the outcome of the decision. They found that feeling responsible for the outcome of a decision may drive people to a third choice - inaction.

"For many high stakes decisions, such as financial investments and healthcare choices, a focus on process or outcome may turn out to be a critical decision factor," write Yinlong Zhang (University of Texas--San Antonio) and Vikas Mittal (University of Pittsburgh). "When deciding between two stocks ... people who feel accountable for the outcome would simply decide not to choose. Consequently, they may defer investing and have fewer assets in the long run."

Zhang and Mittal stress that the best way to minimize difficulty when making a decision is to first hone in on a succinct decision process. Then, simply make the decision. "This can be particularly important when you are choosing from options that are naturally aversive," the authors explain.
-end-
Zhang, Yinlong and Vikas Mittal. "Decision Difficulty: Effects of Procedural and Outcome Accessibility." Journal of Consumer Research, Dec 2005.

University of Chicago Press Journals

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