Complicating Decisions: The Work Ethic Heuristic and the Construction of Effortful Decisions
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol. 145(7): 807-29, 2016
71 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2016
Date Written: March 1, 2016
The notion that effort and hard work yield desired outcomes is ingrained in many cultures and affects our thinking and behavior. However, could valuing effort complicate our lives? In the present article, the authors demonstrate that individuals with a stronger tendency to link effort with positive outcomes end up complicating what should be easy decisions. People distort their preferences and the information they search and recall in a manner that intensifies the choice conflict and decisional effort they experience prior to finalizing their choice. Six experiments identify the effort-outcome link as the underlying mechanism for such conflict-increasing behavior. Individuals with a stronger tendency to link effort with positive outcomes (e.g., individuals who subscribe to a Protestant Work Ethic) are shown to complicate decisions by: (i) distorting evaluations of alternatives (Study 1); (ii) distorting information recalled about the alternatives (Studies 2a & 2b); and (iii) distorting interpretations of information about the alternatives (Study 3). Further, individuals conduct a superfluous search for information and spend more time than needed on what should have been an easy decision (Studies 4a & 4b).
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