1
$\begingroup$

People usually want to make their own decisions. Those looking for spouses often listen to their inner romantic instincts and reject advice from more experienced people. Drivers are skeptical about self-driving cars and would feel safer driving themselves. In some cases, even when unjustified, people would rather take matters into their own hands.

A convenient explanation of this is overconfidence. People may be overly confident about their ability to choose the best decision. However, it seems that this is not everything.

Even those who know that it is better to let experts decide for them have bursts of distrust. People routinely decide not to follow doctor advice, even though they know they don't have good reasons to do so. Even those exposed to thorough research on how romantic instincts are not long-lasting follow their heart when choosing spouses.

These observations lead me to suspect that people simply have an innate preference to take matters into their own hands. Is there research that can speak to this conjecture?

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

This is called the illusion of control:

... the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events; for example, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence.

Some examples from the same source:

Subjects are either given tickets at random or allowed to choose their own. They can then trade their tickets for others with a higher chance of paying out. Subjects who had chosen their own ticket were more reluctant to part with it. ... Participants who chose their own numbers were less likely to trade their ticket even for one in a game with better odds.

On average, drivers regard accidents as much less likely in "high-control" situations, such as when they are driving, than in "low-control" situations, such as when they are in the passenger seat. They also rate a high-control accident, such as driving into the car in front, as much less likely than a low-control accident such as being hit from behind by another driver.

The illusion of control is one of several positive illusions that people have about themselves.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ Arnon - thanks for your answer. I meant to ask if there is something even beyond the conventional illusion of control. For instance, even those that agree (consciously) that algorithms are better than themselves at choosing suitable long-term partners will, when it comes to making decisions, want to make their own decisions and not listen to advice. That is, they have consciously expressed that "I know my choice sucks", but then they still go with their own choices. $\endgroup$
    – J Li
    Feb 1 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ Check the lottery example I provided, where even when the odds are objectively (numerically) better, people still prefer their own choice. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Feb 2 at 0:06
  • $\begingroup$ I see. I guess the follow up question is whether people really understood those objective odds in those cases. I know it sounds obvious (that they should), but from my limited experience with lottery players/gamblers, they seem to have their own understanding of “how luck works” that defies probably calculations. $\endgroup$
    – J Li
    Feb 2 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Fair, and to be honest, I am often surprised by how bad people are at that. But for the record, subjects were explicitly told that the odds for their ticket were 1:26 vs 1:21 for the ticket offered in exchange, so not complicated at least. Additionally, the difference between the random and choice groups was only whether or not they chose the ticket - ie, since the random group exchanged their ticket more often, they clearly understood that the odds were better, so it stands to reason that the choice group would have the same understanding. These results have been replicated multiple times. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Feb 2 at 18:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.