To Make Better Decisions, Pretend You're Deciding for Someone Else

Posted on March 12, 2015

Perhaps the very last person you should turn to for advice is yourself, according to a new post from the Association for Psychological Science, which references research published last year in Psychological Science. We tend to make wiser decisions when thinking about someone else's problems than when thinking about our own issues, researchers from the University of Waterloo and the University of Michigan found, but there's a way around this. Think through your own decisions from a third-person perspective, suggest the researchers, led by Igor Grossmann at the University of Waterloo.

First, Grossmann and his team asked about 100 people, all of whom were in a long-term relationship, to either imagine that they'd been cheated on or that their best friend had been cheated on. They then were asked to imagine what their friend should do, and they answered a questionnaire designed to measure their "wise reasoning" skills - things like considering multiple perspectives and multiple possible outcomes, or seeking out a compromise. As the researchers expected, the people who were thinking about what their friend should do tended to answer in ways that demonstrated more wisdom than those who were thinking about themselves.

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Source material from New York Times Magazine