The Closing Door Experiment: The True Reason People "Keep Their Options Open"

We've all been told that we should "keep all our options open," but is that really the right thing to do? Not according to Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at the MIT:

In a series of experiments, hundreds of students could not bear to let their options vanish, even though it was obviously a dumb strategy (and they weren’t even asked to burn anything).

The experiments involved a game that eliminated the excuses we usually have for refusing to let go. In the real world, we can always tell ourselves that it’s good to keep options open.

And the scientists learned something new about human behavior: it's not about keeping the doors open. It's about avoiding the pain of watching one close:

Apparently they did not care so much about maintaining flexibility in the future. What really motivated them was the desire to avoid the immediate pain of watching a door close.

“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities. If you are afraid to drop any project at the office, you pay for it at home.

The experiment is kind of tricky, and would take a long time to explain here, so just read about it at this The New York Times report by John Tierney: Link (Photo: Viktor Koen) - via swissmiss


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I could have told them that! Their conclusion (to avoid the pain of loss.) Is one that people deal with in relationships every minute of every day. It's the answer to "Why don't you leave that person?" because you don't want to a.) Cause them pain or b.) Cause yourself the pain of seperation.

That this is news is just dumb.
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