Science/Tech

Slow Down: Making Quick Decisions Often Based On Poor Judgment, Gauge Of Trust

decision
Making decisions can be impacted by either an urgent need for closure or a lack thereof; the former often leads to poor judgment. Jose Maria Cuellar / CC BY 2.0

People who are forced to make very quick decisions — or who have an urgent need for closure — may be more likely to make a decision based on poor judgment, according to research out of BI Norwegian Business School.

Ph.D. candidate Sinem Acar-Burkay wanted to analyze how the need for closure — or lack thereof — affected decision-making and negotiations, as well as how trust and closeness between negotiation partners had an impact on the final verdict. She found that focusing on closure could be both good and bad. “When you have to make quick decisions, it might be a good thing to focus on closure,” Acar-Burkay said. “But a high need for closure may also lead to decisions that are based on poor judgment.”

The study reviewed some 1,245 participants across five different experiments, to help examine how a person’s need for closure, trust in their negotiating partner, and closeness to that partner all worked together to form their ultimate decisions. People who desperately wanted closure and wanted to make a final decision quickly were found to see things as black-and-white: They either trusted the other party completely or not at all.

People who didn’t have as intense a need for closure, meanwhile, were more likely to be open to other situations and new information. “They take the necessary time to analyze the situation and make a more careful assessment of how much they can trust the other party,” Acar-Burkay said. In other words, people who don’t have time constraints to make decisions can often take the time and space to make a more balanced, well-thought out, and objective decision — at times.

In addition to time constraints and need for closure, Acar-Burkay examined how a perception of closeness or level of trust impacted decision-making. People with a need for closure often place a lot of trust in the person with whom they are negotiating, especially when they have something in common with him or her. People with a lesser desire to make a quick decision, meanwhile, are less likely to trust the other person based on “perceived common” attributes. These people will also be more open to new information about their partners, and will adjust their level of trust accordingly rather than be all in or all out. “My research shows that it is difficult to change people’s thinking when they have a polarized trust in others,” Acar-Burkay said.

What this ultimately shows is that people who are quick to make decisions and find closure will be more likely to trust their seller or partner based on superficial commonalities — and often the seller may be more successful in manipulating those people. “There is then a risk that you will trust the other party to a higher or lower degree than what is warranted,” Acar-Burkay said. Polarization, in short, is the result of quick decision-making and a desperate need for closure.

But this doesn’t always mean that hasty decisions are inherently flawed ones. A 2012 study out of Vanderbilt University examined a similar topic and found that people make different decisions based on whether they have to be quick or if they’re under pressure to be accurate — because the brain actually uses different processes to accomplish both.

In the study, Professor Jeffrey Schall and his team found that “identical information presented to the brain is analyzed differently under speed stress than under accuracy stress,” Schall said. “Haste makes waste when a mistake entails dire consequences. But there are many situations in life when the cost of not acting is higher than making an error in judgment. For example, if the decision is whether or not to shut down a nuclear reactor in the presence of a potential meltdown, I’d prefer haste.”

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