CHICAGO — Are you having trouble deciding whether or not to move? Is it time to quit your job but you just can’t go through with it? A new study suggests a simple coin flip not only helps people make big choices, but they’re happier when the coin tells them to make such a huge life change.
University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt says a study of happiness after making major decisions reveals that people should actually embrace quitting. His study finds that participants who go through with their coin flip choices were living happier lives six months later.
“Society teaches us ‘quitters never win and winners never quit,’ but in reality the data from my experiment suggests we would all be better off if we did more quitting,” Levitt said in a statement.
The study, published in The Review of Economic Studies, presented subjects with a number of questions such as, “Should I quit my job?” and “Should I propose?” The participants could also make their own questions, like “Should I get a tattoo?”
The yes or no choices were then assigned to each side of the coin. With a third-party watching the results, participants were surveyed two months and six months after their consequential coin flip. Although people tended to favor sticking with the status quo after two months, their attitudes changed by the six-month mark. Participants and the third-parties observing them found that coin flips telling subjects to make a major life change ended up making them much happier half a year later.
Levitt says that participants in the online study also said they’d make the same decision if they had to choose again. The co-author of Freakonomics adds the results differ from basic economic theories because those models focus on gains and losses and not how the choice impacts how you feel. Levitt argues that change is generally the best option when you’re in a tough spot.
“A good rule of thumb in decision making is, whenever you cannot decide what you should do, choose the action that represents a change, rather than continuing the status quo.”