Psychology Research: Tough Decision Making Blamed on Fate

First Posted: Feb 19, 2014 08:13 PM EST

Have you ever been faced with a difficult decision? And did that decision make you question why it presented itself? As humans we must cope with decision making every day. A new study has shown how many people blame outside factors in the process.

Researchers at Duke University conducted a study that showed people tend deal with a tough decision by blaming "fate," rather than their own responsibility in the decision making process. Their hypothesis was "Belief in fate, defined as the belief that whatever happens was supposed to happen and that outcomes are ultimately predetermined, may be especially useful when one is facing these types of difficult decisions," as described in this Association of Psychological Sciences article.

Aaron Kay, Simone Tang, and Steve Shepherd of Duke were the authors of the study, and they tested their hypothesis on 189 participants in a two online surveys, both dealing with the 2012 Presidential Election. In the first survey, respondents who seemed to have a more difficult time choosing between the candidates were more likely to assign fate to the situation.

The second survey sought to manipulate the participants' decision through fogging the distinctions between the two presidential candidates. By comparing the candidates' similar policy positions through quotes and policy statements, the participants faced more difficulty in choosing a candidate and reported a greater belief in fate as the deciding factor. Those who were able to distinguish the differences in the given quotes did not report using fate in their decision.

Similar studies as this one help identify how people tend to be a "prisoner of their own mind" and handcuff themselves into believing certain things rather than escaping from their common beliefs to deduce and arrive at a logical answer.

The Duke University study was published in Psychological Science and provides interesting findings, but the researchers believe that additional questions still need to be addressed in further studies.

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