Do people make good choices when facing important decisions?
A paper, based on a large-scale randomized field experiment, aims to answer this questions. It's titled Heads or Tails: The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions and Subsequent Happiness.
In the experiment, research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice.
For important decisions (e.g. quitting a job or ending a relationship), those who make a change (regardless of the outcome of the coin toss) report being substantially happier two months and six months later.
But was the happiness a result of a change? To assess this, the outcome of a coin toss was taken into account. Individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are much more likely to make a change and are happier six months later than those who were told by the coin to maintain the status quo.
The results of this paper suggest that people may be excessively cautious when facing life-changing choices.
Next time, when you think about an important change, remember that odds are on your side. You are more likely to feel better making the change than not. You don't even have to flip a coin. Just make that change.