Second-guessing linked to unhappiness

Dec. 15, 2011 at 8:54 PM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Fretting over which coffee maker to buy or second-guessing oneself over a house one has bought may be a recipe for unhappiness, U.S. researchers say.

Joyce Ehrlinger, an assistant professor of psychology Florida State University, said individuals identified among psychologists as "maximizers," tend to obsess over decisions -- big or small -- and then fret about their choices later, while "satisficers," tend to make a decision and live with it.

Ehrlinger, doctoral candidate Erin Sparks, and Richard Eibach, a psychology assistant professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, found the maximizers' focus on finding the best option ultimately undermines their commitment to their final choices. As a result, they miss out on psychological benefits of commitment," leaving them less satisfied than their more contented counterparts -- the satisficers.

"Because maximizers want to be certain they have made the right choice, they are less likely to fully commit to a decision, and most likely, they are less happy in their everyday lives," the study authors said in a statement. "Current research is trying to understand whether they can change. High-level maximizers certainly cause themselves a lot of grief."

The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, said a maximizer's lack of contentment creates a lot of stress, so the trait could potentially have an enormous effect on health.

Even after considerable deliberation, a high-level maximizer may still feel unhappy, even depressed, with his or her final decision, the study said.

"Identifying the 'right' choice can be a never-ending task," Ehrlinger said. "Maximizers might be unable to fully embrace a choice because they cannot be absolutely certain they chose the best possible option."

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