Monday, August 15, 2016

Look Before You Leap, But Leap

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood (Frost/
Economist Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, has some evidence that the riskier life decision, i.e., making a change, results in greater happiness.

Individuals who were in a quandary over whether to get married (or divorced), quit their jobs, adopt a child, etc., volunteered to be part of Professor Levitt's study. They flipped a coin and agreed to follow the coin's "orders" (whether they did so or not was up to them).

The findings, excerpted from the working paper: [bold added]
First, two months into the study participants show a bias towards the status quo.

Second, those who report making a change in follow-up surveys are substantially happier than those who do not make a change.

Third, the outcome of the coin toss appears to influence the actions taken. Those who flipped heads were approximately 25 percent more likely to report making a change than those who got tails.

Fourth, when it comes to “important” decisions (e.g. job quitting, separating from your husband or wife), making a change appears to be not only correlated with increased self-reported happiness, but also causally related, especially six months after the coin toss.
There are numerous methodological criticisms---for example, the voluntary participation of the subjects---of the study that prevent it from being "scientific." However, it confirms our bias, so we are allowed to seize upon it!

If you had stayed put, and your life, though okay, didn't change much, you may always wonder....

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