Tag Archives: Gilovich

Delay into Doubt

doubtimagesContinuing on the delay theme, this post is based on the paper: “Delay, Doubt, and Decision:  How Delaying a Choice Reduces the Appeal of (Descriptively) Normative Options” written by Niels Van de Ven, Thomas Gilovich, and Marcel Zeelenberg, that appeared in Psychological Science in 2010.
The authors examined whether choosing to delay making a choice between a focal option and an alternative tends to make people subsequently less likely to choose what they would otherwise have chosen. They based their efforts on a regularity in elections in the United States that is known as the incumbent rule. It refers to the fact that undecided voters who end up casting ballots tend to vote against the incumbent. One analysis found that in 127 of 155 national, state,
and municipal elections, the majority of undecided voters went for the challenger. This may seem a little odd since decision researchers have documented a status quo bias in people’s
choices—a bias to stick with the status quo option rather than try something new. So why do undecided voters not favor the incumbent? Van de Ven et al contend that undecided voters
interpret the fact that they have yet to decide as information that calls into question the wisdom of picking the incumbent. Given that the incumbent is typically the more psychologically prominent candidate, and that people know they often follow an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule, they may wonder why they have not already resolved to vote for the incumbent. In other words, they propose that the experience of doubt is experienced as doubt about the incumbent.

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