If you think that between two similar things you choose what you like the most, you may be wrong.
Actually what happens is that you end up liking it after you have chosen it. And what you did not choose, you automatically do not like.
There is several research showing that adults develop unconscious biases throughout their lives when they choose between things that are essentially the same.
“As adults, we choose one thing over another and then we justify it by telling ourselves that we must like the thing we choose, and that the other thing is not so good “, says Alex Silver, one of the authors of the study” When not choosing leads to dislike: choice-induced preference in childhood “, published in the journal Psychological Science.
This new research also revealed that this way of selection is not exclusive to adults, but occurs from an early age, suggesting that the way to justify a choice is intuitive and in some way basic to human development.
What was the experiment?
A team from the Department of Psychology at Johns Hopkins University, United States, designed a series of experiments to test whether babies changed their minds about their preferences for a toy.
First, they gave a group of babies – between 10 and 20 months old – the option to choose between two equally bright and colorful toy blocks.
They placed the blocks on the floor far apart for the babies to crawl towards one, thus making their choice.
The researchers then took both blocks and gave them a second choice between the block they didn’t pick in the first round and a new, equally bright and colorful one that they hadn’t seen before.
“We found that, overwhelmingly, the babies preferred to play with the new block rather than the block not chosen previously. They seemed to have belittled the non-chosen block, so they continued to avoid it in the second option, “explains Silver to BBC Mundo.
The specialists continued the observations and tests in which they showed that the babies were not only choosing the new block because it was striking and new, but also corroborating that they were avoiding the block not chosen at the beginning.
“These findings were surprising because we showed that even without much experience making decisions for themselves, babies already make choices in patterns similar to adults. This suggests that this phenomenon is really a basic cognitive process “, adds the researcher.
Justify the choices
They say that generalizations are bad, so we cannot say that we never choose something that we really like, but we tend to justify ourselves if between two similar things we choose one thing and leave the other aside by ensuring that we do not like the second.
“I chose this, so I must like it. I didn’t choose this other thing, so it must not be so good. Adults make these inferences unconsciously,” says study leader Lisa Feigenson who is a Johns Hopkins cognitive scientist specializing in the development of children.
“And we justify our choice a posteriori”he adds in a statement from the university.
This phenomenon of changing how we feel about our options after we make them (or don’t make them) is called “choice-induced change of preference” and there are previous studies that indicate that this process occurs relatively automatically in the brain.
“It doesn’t seem to be something that we consciously think about or decide to do, it’s a rather automatic process. I don’t think it’s a case of our brain lying to us, but rather an example of how our brain justifies our decisions to make us feel like we made the right decision“, detalla Silver.
In short, we seek to appear consistent, which is why we like to have a reason in our choices.
But according to the analysis of the specialists, the surprising part of this study is that, like adults, babies also seem to do it.
“Since it is present so early in life and in babies with such minimal experience, this phenomenon clearly does not seem to require much experience in decision making“during life, Silver stresses.
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