No Regrets? All I Need Is To Wash My Hands?

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This Scientific American blog discusses the recent May 6th online study from Science which “reveals the power of hand washing to ease people’s minds… Often, when people make decisions—no matter how big or small—they tend to justify them, rationalizing often beyond reason that their choice was by far the best.  Resolving the sense of cognitive dissonance vastly decreased in subjects who washed their hands after having to make a simple choice.”

This might work for many, but not for me…I can’t even Google a topic without regret-which is why I can’t properly cite Barry Schwartz’s thesis of satisficer and maximizer which he wrote about in his book The Paradox of Choice. Scwartz’s theory is that there are different types of decision makers. A saticficer is able to make a decision when basic criteria are met. Once a satisficer makes a decision, they are ready to move on and not look back. Maximizers tend to have more anxiety over their ability to make the optimal decision and then have many regrets about whether they made the right decision once the decision has been made.

So in this hand washing study, is it fair to assume that there was a perfectly balanced sampling of maximizers and satisficers? I am not a scientist just a very experienced maximizer. I will guess that they had too many carefree college students as research subjects. Had they taken a more “real world sample”, the study would have determined that many people need showers and long vacations in addition to simple hand washing to minimize the “cognitive dissonance” of their decision-making

Previously Published on Open Salon under Sanrkychaser May 12, 2010