What do we know about our choices?

Research at Lund University shows that the majority of us can argue for choices that actually contradict a decision we have just made.

The phenomenon is known as choice blindness. Using tricks inspired by professional card magicians, researchers at Lund University have revealed that a lack of detailed thinking lies behind many decisions that people take.

“What do we actually reveal with our choices when we are choice blinded?” asks Lars Hall, a researcher in Cognitive Science.

In one of the early experiments in the study, the research subjects were asked to choose the most beautiful face from two alternatives. With the help of a card trick, the participants got back the card they hadn’t chosen, believing it was the one they had selected. The vast majority did not notice that they had been given the wrong picture, but were still fully capable of explaining why they thought the person in the picture was the most beautiful.

“The mostastounding thing was how few noticed that the pictures had been swapped. We were therefore able to show that many people do not necessarily know why they choose one thing over another. A lot is probably rationalisation after the event”, says Lars Hall.

In later experiments, the researchers have studied choice blindness for choices concerning consumption, finances, politics and morality. A study is now being started to investigate young people’s body image.

“Choice blindness challenges the foundations for all science of decision making. I hope that it could also serve as an educational tool to improve self-awareness”, says Lars Hall.

Text: Ingela Björck

Published: 2013

Related articles