Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Study Finds Coin-Flippers Happier

Study Finds

              Steven Levitt, a University of Chicago economist and co-author of the best-selling book Freakonomics, oversaw a study of people’s happiness after making big decisions. The enquiry, published in The Review of Economic Studies, presented participants with questions including, “Should I quit my job?” and “Should I propose?” Those surveyed could also make up their own questions. Participants agreed to make their decisions by flipping a coin with “yes” on one side and “no” on the other.
              Counterintuitively, the study found that the coin flip mandates generally made people happy, particularly when directing them to make a big change in their life. Participants were surveyed by a third party two months after their coin flips and six months after. At the six-month mark, most surveyed were living happier lives, with most of those instructed to make a major change in their lives much happier. Levitt suggested, “A good rule of thumb in decision making is, whenever you cannot decide what you should do, choose the action that represents a change, rather than continuing the status quo.”
              Those surveyed also said they would make the same decision if they had to choose again.
              I’m keen to test Levitt’s findings out myself. I’ve made up my own questions. And my own coin. “Wheaties or Cheerios?” “Boxers or briefs?” “Make love now or wait until I’m married?” “Bet everything I own on red or buy a nice house?” “Bomb China or Iran?”
              I thought of one more: “Write this post or rearrange my sock drawer?”
              Did the coin make the right choice?
              Flip a coin before you answer.

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