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People rationalize if there's no alternative

Nov. 6, 2011 at 11:37 PM   |   Comments

WATERLOO, Ontario, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- People who feel they're stuck with something are more likely to be content than people who think there is a way out, U.S. and Canadian researchers say.

Kristin Laurin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, said studies show two contradictory results about how people respond to rules. Some research found when there are new restrictions, people rationalize them, and the brain comes up with a way to believe the restriction is a good idea.

However, other research found people react negatively against new rules or restrictions, wanting the restricted thing more than ever, Laurin said.

In the study experiment, the participants read that lowering speed limits in cities would make people safer. Some read that government leaders had decided to reduce speed limits. Of those people, some were told that this legislation would definitely come into effect, and others read that it would probably happen, but that there was still a small chance government officials could vote it down, the researchers said.

Laurin, Aaron Kay and Gavan Fitzsimons of Duke University in North Carolina found people who thought the speed limit was definitely being lowered supported the change more than control subjects, but people who thought there was still a chance it wouldn't happen supported it less than these control subjects.

The findings are published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science.

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