‚Think it all over‘ – Why Reversible Decisions Do Not Make Us Happier

by Georg Felser

Even if consumers prefer the freedom to withdraw a decision, they are more content with the results of irreversible decisions (Gilbert & Ebert, 2002). The awareness of the decision’s irreversibility apparently in the first place triggers particularly those adaptive processes that lead humans to be content with what they got and not to crave for what they cannot have. Vice versa, the awareness of a choice’s reversability motivates a decision making strategy in which not only satisfying, but the best possible options are available. This attitude has been shown to correlate with lower satisfaction (e.g. Schwartz et al, 2002). The article shows results of an experiment where subjects could choose between different variations of a cup decorated with the emblem of their college. One group of subjects was offered to change their decision later on, the others had to stick to their first choice. Subjects who made a final decision, reported significantly more often, that they actually used their cup. Moreover, the awareness of the choice’s reversibility enhanced thoughts about the non-elected alternative and and a standard to always choose the optimal option.