More Information Doesn’t Impact Your Decisions
With so much information accessible at our fingertips, it’s difficult to think that we aren’t using it to make more informed decisions. Yet, recent research from the University of Chicago has found that, more often than not, people are making snap decisions without taking in the excess information at their disposal.
“Sometimes people need a lot of information to get an accurate reading, and sometimes people don’t need much information at all to get an accurate reading,” says Ed O’Brien, an associate professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “The key insight revealed by our research is that it is hard to understand in advance which is which—people generally think that more information will be better, even when more information simply goes unused.”
In this research, which consisted of seven studies, participants overestimated how much information it would take to make a decision, failing to realize that much of the information isn’t incorporated into the decision-making process.
In one of the studies, participants were asked to drink one 0.5-ounce cup of a new vegetable drink. Then, a random selection of those participants was asked to predict how many cups it would take for them to decide whether they liked or disliked the drink. The rest continued drinking until they decided. Whether they liked the drink or not, participants thought they’d need to drink more cups than they actually did to make their decision.
In another one of the studies, MBA students applying to a hypothetical management position were asked to write the exact number of essays they thought a hiring manager would read to make a decision on their employment. These students were told that a real hiring manager would read the essays and that too many or too few essays would ruin their changes of getting the job.
This research suggest that providers of information think they are being heard clearly and assume that information seekers are seeing and considering all of the information available when making a decision.
“Broadly speaking, we think this discrepancy is especially important in today’s information age, with more access to more information than ever before,” O’Brien says. “People may think that so much accessible information will be useful for informing opinions and changing each other’s minds, without realizing that minds will be made up nearly right away.”