‘Tis better to choose and lose than to never choose at all

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When decisions involve opting in or out of competition many decision makers will opt-in even when doing so leads to losses on average. In the current paper, we examine the generality of this effect in risky choices not involving competition. We found that re-framing a sure (certain) zero option as an option to observe the results of the other options without choosing would lead to increased consequential choice (i.e., increased selection of risky options rather than the zero option). Specifically, in two studies we compared the rate of consequential choice in a novel paradigm where decision makers decide to observe or to choose with consequence from a set of risky options (decisions-to-engage) to a full-feedback decisions-from-feedback paradigm where the choice set included a labeled sure zero option. Compared to decisions-from-feedback, participants were more likely to choose from mixed (risky) gambles with consequence (over a zero outcome) in decisions-to-engage. This occurred irrespective of whether doing so was advantageous (i.e., when choice led to monetary gains on average) or disadvantageous (i.e., when choice led to monetary losses on average), and when descriptions of the options outcomes and probabilities were provided (Study 2). These findings provide an important boundary condition for the positive effects of experience on the quality of choice, and suggest that decision makers’ preference for agency can sometimes induce poorer choices.

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Judgment and Decision Making

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