How to Avoid Tough Decisions: Blame Fate

Can’t make up your mind about something? Can’t say we know that feeling, but then again, we’re pretty cocky. If we really can’t decide about something, we take the Two-Face route—sans snappy suit—flip a coin and call it fate. Here’s the funny thing, though: recent research suggests that shifting the responsibility for a tough decision to fate is a pretty common attitude.

The study, published in Psychological Science, used a pretty major even to test their hypothesis: the 2012 US Presidential Election. For the first part of their test, they surveyed 189 people on their candidate preferences and belief in fate. They found a correlation between people who were undecided (i.e., people who felt that there was no real difference, people who didn’t know how to compare the candidate’s plans, and people who felt that both candidates seemed pretty good) and people who believed in fate (e.g., “the guy who gets chosen is bound to be the best man for the job!”).

For the second part of the test, researchers split the participants into two groups. Both groups were given real quotes from Romney and Obama, but researchers gave one group quotes that emphasized the similarity of the candidates, and the other group got mainly quotes emphasizing their difference. As predicted, the group who received similar quotes reported a greater belief in fate than those given quotes emphasizing the candidate’s difference.

So, the question remains: what the hell? Well, researchers suggest that choosing to believe in fate is basically the easy way out. As to whether or not that’s a good thing, they have no idea, concluding: “Belief in fate may ease the psychological burden of a difficult decision, but whether that comes at the cost of short-circuiting an effective decision-making process is an important question for future research.”

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