Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

People tend to blame fate when faced with a hard decision

Date:
February 19, 2014
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
We tend to deal with difficult decisions by shifting responsibility for the decision to fate, according to new research. Life is full of decisions. Some, like what to eat for breakfast, are relatively easy. Others, like whether to move cities for a new job, are quite a bit more difficult. Difficult decisions tend to make us feel stressed and uncomfortable -- we don't want to feel responsible if the outcome is less than desirable. New research suggests that we deal with such difficult decisions by shifting responsibility for the decision to fate.

Life is full of decisions. Some, like what to eat for breakfast, are relatively easy. Others, like whether to move cities for a new job, are quite a bit more difficult. Difficult decisions tend to make us feel stressed and uncomfortable -- we don't want to feel responsible if the outcome is less than desirable. New research suggests that we deal with such difficult decisions by shifting responsibility for the decision to fate.

Related Articles


The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Fate is a ubiquitous supernatural belief, spanning time and place," write researchers Aaron Kay, Simone Tang, and Steven Shepherd of Duke University. "It exerts a range of positive and negative effects on health, coping, and both action and inaction."

Kay, Tang, and Shepherd hypothesized that people may invoke fate as a way of assuaging their own stress and fears -- a way of saying "It's out of my hands now, there's nothing I can do."

"Belief in fate, defined as the belief that whatever happens was supposed to happen and that outcomes are ultimately predetermined, may be especially useful when one is facing these types of difficult decisions," they explain.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers capitalized on a current event of considerable significance: the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

They conducted an online survey with 189 participants and found that the greater difficulty participants reported in choosing between Obama and Romney (e.g., "both candidates seem equally good," "I am not sure how to compare the candidates' plans"), the more likely they were to believe in fate (e.g., "Fate will make sure that the candidate that eventually gets elected is the right one").

In a second online survey, the researchers actually manipulated participants' decision difficulty by making it harder to distinguish between the candidates.

Participants read real policy statements from the two presidential candidates -- some read quotes from the candidates that emphasized the similarities in their policy positions, others read quotes that emphasized the differences.

As predicted, participants who read statements that highlighted similarities viewed the decision between the candidates as more difficult and reported greater belief in fate than the participants that read statements focused on differences.

"The two studies presented here provide consistent and converging evidence that decision difficulty can motivate increased belief in fate," write Kay and colleagues.

The researchers note that these findings raise additional questions that still need to be answered.

For example, do people invoke fate when they have to make decisions that are personally but not societally significant, such as where to invest money? And are we just as likely to invoke luck or other supernatural worldviews when faced with a difficult decision?

"Belief in fate may ease the psychological burden of a difficult decision, but whether that comes at the cost of short-circuiting an effective decision-making process is an important question for future research," the researchers conclude.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Tang, S. Shepherd, A. C. Kay. Do Difficult Decisions Motivate Belief in Fate? A Test in the Context of the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613519448

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "People tend to blame fate when faced with a hard decision." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140219102357.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, February 19). People tend to blame fate when faced with a hard decision. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140219102357.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "People tend to blame fate when faced with a hard decision." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140219102357.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

China's "Great Firewall" Frustrates Internet Users

China's "Great Firewall" Frustrates Internet Users

Reuters - News Video Online (Jan. 31, 2015) The Chinese government moves to tighten regulations for virtual private network (VPN) services that are used to access websites and services normally blocked in China. That&apos;s affected many internet users in the country. Yiming Woo reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Excuses, Excuses: Weirdest Reasons People Give For Tardiness

Excuses, Excuses: Weirdest Reasons People Give For Tardiness

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) CareerBuilder surveyed around 5,000 workers and human resources managers nationwide to compile a list of strange excuses employees used when tardy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC: Get Vaccinated for Measles

CDC: Get Vaccinated for Measles

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 30, 2015) The CDC is urging people to get vaccinated for measles amid an outbreak that began at Disneyland and has now infected more than 90 people. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama To Outline New Plan For Personalized Medicine

Obama To Outline New Plan For Personalized Medicine

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) President Obama is expected to speak with drugmakers Friday about his Precision Medicine Initiative first introduced last week. Video provided by Newsy
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


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

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