Have you ever second-guessed a choice you made after hearing your peers’ perspective on the decision? If so, you’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by Cait Poynor Lamberton, assistant professor of business administration at the University of Pittsburgh, and two co-authors, confidence in a decision wanes when we learn someone made the same choice for a different reason.
Lamberton further explained the study: “I expect I would be on the Mall with a million other people. Our brains would tell us that all of these people should be a lot like us because we’re all happy that Obama was re-elected. But if I see someone holding signs and displaying views that have nothing to do my reasons for supporting Obama, it’ll make me question whether I really voted for the right guy—or if my reasons for doing so were completely misguided.” This instance is often referenced as the “strange bedfellows effect.”
According to Lamberton, people anticipate defending a public decision and are usually able to articulate it, but oftentimes can’t articulate reasoning behind personal decisions. “In the public domain, people anticipate that they may have to defend their choices,” Lamberton says. “As such, having strong reasoning underlying their choices becomes more important to them. By contrast, many of our private decisions aren’t even based on well-articulated reasons: we choose simply based on habit or instinct, but if no one forces us to, we don’t think too carefully about our reasoning.”