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Questioning Decisions Can Lead to Unhappiness

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 16, 2011

Questioning Decisions Can Lead to Unhappiness For some, it is hard to be satisfied as we consistently wonder if we have done the right thing. Now, researchers have determined overanalyzing and then second guessing one’ decisions can lead to stress and unhappiness.

Psychologist have termed individuals who obsess over decisions — big or small — and then fret about their choices later as “maximizers.” “Satisfiers,” on the other hand, tend to make a decision and then live with it.

A new study sheds light on why it is difficult for some to make a decision that they can be happy with.

Dr. Joyce Ehrlinger, an assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University, said that individuals usually fall between the extremes. In fact, there’s a whole continuum of ways people avoid commitment without really avoiding it.

Ehrlinger’s research on decision making is found in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

The paper examines whether “maximizers show less commitment to their choices than satisfiers in a way that leaves them less satisfied with their choices.”Ehrilinger and her research team discovered maximizers’ tendency to focus on finding the best option ultimately undermines their commitment to their final choices.

As a result, the authors argue, “maximizers miss out on the psychological benefits of commitment,” leaving them less satisfied than their more contented counterparts, the satisfiers.

Past research into the differences between maximizers and satisfiers looked at how the two groups made choices differently and, more importantly, how the process itself varied. Ehrlinger’s research, however, looked at something else entirely: What happened after a choice was made?

“Because maximizers want to be certain they have made the right choice,” the authors contend, “they are less likely to fully commit to a decision.” And most likely, they are less happy in their everyday lives.

Whether being a maximizer is a central and stable part of the personality or simply a frame of mind remains unclear, but Ehrlinger hopes to isolate the cause of the behavior in future research.

“Current research is trying to understand whether they can change,” she said. “High-level maximizers certainly cause themselves a lot of grief.”

Over the years, Ehrlinger’s scholarly research has led her to study self-perception and accuracy and error in self-judgment. Her latest research into the ways maximizers avoid commitment is important for several reasons.

First, the differences between maximizers and satisfiers may play a bigger role than previously thought in consumer decision-making and purchasing. For example: “Maximizers get nervous when they see an ‘All Sales Are Final’ sign because it forces them to commit,” Ehrlinger said.

Also, a maximizer’s lack of contentment creates a lot of stress, so the trait could potentially have an enormous effect on health, Ehrlinger explained. It’s not just coffee-maker purchases they stress over — and second-guess themselves about — it’s also the big life decisions such as choosing a mate, buying a house or applying for a job.

Even after considerable deliberation before choosing a mate or a house, a high-level maximizer may still feel unhappy, even depressed, with his or her final decision.

“Identifying the ‘right’ choice can be a never-ending task (for a maximizer),” Ehrlinger and her co-authors write.

“Feelings about which option is best can always change in the face of new information. Maximizers might be unable to fully embrace a choice because they cannot be absolutely certain they chose the best possible option.”

Source: Florida State University

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2011). Questioning Decisions Can Lead to Unhappiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/12/16/questioning-decisions-can-lead-to-unhappiness/32654.html

 

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