Monday, January 22, 2018

Delegating Tough Choices to Avoid Responsibility and Regret

Mary Steffel and Elanor Williams have published a study on delegation in the Journal of Consumer Research.    They conducted a series of experimental studies to determine when and why consumers delegate difficult purchasing decisions.   They found that people tend to delegate tough choices to avoid responsibility/blame and to avoid the possible feelings of regret that emerge when one makes challenging decisions.  Steffel and Williams summarize their findings as follows:

This research shows that consumers cope with difficult decisions by recruiting others to choose for them. Across eight experiments, participants were more likely to ask others to choose on their behalf when choices felt difficult than when they felt easy. Delegation increased when choices felt difficult regardless of whether that feeling was because the choices themselves were more difficult (e.g., with a larger number of alternatives, with difficult tradeoffs, or with a smaller difference in relative attractiveness between the alternatives), or because the choices were processed less fluently for superficial reasons (e.g., the options were presented in jargon). Delegation increased when choices felt difficult regardless of whether the consequences were real or hypothetical and regardless of the importance of those consequences.

Does the same type of pressure and behavior emerge when managers make decisions at work?  It would be interesting to take a look at those situations, as opposed to consumer purchasing decisions.  

1 comment:

Marc Scrivener said...

Reminds me of Erich Fromm's theory: Escape from Freedom. We tend to flee from choice into authoritarianism, destructiveness, or automaton conformity (letting others make choices for us).