Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Forcing choice may hamper decision-making, study finds

Date:
January 23, 2013
Source:
University of Guelph
Summary:
Constraining choice isn't necessarily a good thing when it comes to managers' problem-solving, according to a new Canadian study. Managers tend to pick higher-risk options when forced to choose between competing alternatives to complex situations, according to researchers.

Constraining choice isn't necessarily a good thing when it comes to managers' problem-solving, according to a new Canadian study.

Managers tend to pick higher-risk options when forced to choose between competing alternatives to complex situations, according to researchers from the University of Guelph and University of Waterloo whose study was published recently in the Journal of Business Ethics.

But when they're not forced to choose, managers tend to reflect more and solve problems with fewer negative consequences, says the study.

"One of the most powerful tools to combat high-risk or unethical decision-making may simply be offering managers the option not to choose," said Theodore Noseworthy, a professor in Guelph's Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies. He conducted the study with colleague Prof. Scott Colwell and lead author Prof. Michael O. Wood of Waterloo's School of Environment, Enterprise and Development.

The research also underscores how psychological mechanisms can affect judgment and problem-solving, he added.

The researchers explored what influences decision-making and problem-solving in two separate studies.

In the first study, which involved 80 experienced managers, business leaders were more likely to take risks that could lead to unethical consequences when they felt psychologically distanced from the stakeholders. That meant their decision would take effect in the distant future or would affect a different social group.

Many managers were unaware of those potential outcomes. "Increased psychological distance can lead to managers overlooking the ethical consequences of an outcome," Noseworthy said.

A second study of 192 different managers also asked people to make decisions under "high" and "low" psychological distance. But participants were either forced to choose between competing solutions or given the option to reject both alternatives.

Once again, the majority opted for the higher-risk choice when they were more psychologically removed from the situation. However, when given the option not to choose, managers didn't exercise this option. Instead, they spent more time reflecting and opted for the less risky solution.

"Where this gets interesting is why this happens," Noseworthy said. "Managers were more likely to see the potential ethical consequences of their actions when they are given the option not to choose."

This study is one of the first to demonstrate that the rise in what Noseworthy refers to as "seemingly unethical decisions" may have more to do with an expanding global economy that increases the psychological distance between the decision-maker and those affected by the decision.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Guelph. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael O. Wood, Theodore J. Noseworthy, Scott R. Colwell. If You Can’t See the Forest for the Trees, You Might Just Cut Down the Forest: The Perils of Forced Choice on “Seemingly” Unethical Decision-Making. Journal of Business Ethics, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1606-x

Cite This Page:

University of Guelph. "Forcing choice may hamper decision-making, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130123094740.htm>.
University of Guelph. (2013, January 23). Forcing choice may hamper decision-making, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130123094740.htm
University of Guelph. "Forcing choice may hamper decision-making, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130123094740.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins