Do people disagree with themselves? On the consistency of everyday and complex decisions

Resource Type
  • Bessette, Douglas (Ohio State University)
  • Wilson, Robyn (Ohio State University)
  • Arvai, Joseph (University of Michigan)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • University of Calgary
Free Keywords
internal consistency; decision making; preference; tradeoffs
  • Abstract

    It is commonly accepted that across virtually every context people disagree with one another. In this data, we show that people might also disagree with themselves. Using seven decision-making contexts ranging in complexity and familiarity we show that a nationally representative sample (n = 1,874) of people made choices that were inconsistent across two complimentary methods of eliciting preferences. We show that on average, individuals demonstrate higher levels of consistency when decisions are simple and straightforward. However, consistency declines when people are confronted with unfamiliar or complex decision contexts. Our results support a theory of basic values over articulated values, which suggests that people have well-established preferences for only the most common decisions. Moreover, providing additional and salient contextual information about alternatives, such as brand names, model information or the specific processes behind alternative strategies, results in significantly lower levels of consistency when compared to situations where this information is withheld. This finding suggests that people may rely on simplifying heuristics when choosing between familiar alternatives; however, this kind of information is less influential when decision contexts, and the alternatives themselves, are complex or unfamiliar. Importantly, we show that higher levels of education also have a significant and positive association with the consistency of people’s choices.
Geographic Coverage
  • Canada
This study is freely available to the general public via web download.

Update Metadata: 2021-02-14 | Issue Number: 1 | Registration Date: 2021-02-14