Opposites not only attract but make good decisions together: Study

Published: May 15, 2019


Two people with divergent attitudes can make satisfactory decisions together, in spite of their differences, a recent study suggests.

People routinely make joint decisions with others – which restaurant to eat in, what movie to watch or where to go on vacation. Researchers from Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Washington State University wanted to see if those with opposite attitudes could come to satisfactory decisions together.

The studies found that when paired with a selfish partner, it is better to behave altruistically, reported Hindustan Times. Similarly, when paired with an altruistic partner, it is better to behave selfishly to achieve the desired outcome, according to the findings reported recently in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

In both scenarios, the paired respondents were able to come to decisions that best reflected their individual preferences or what both partners personally liked, said Hristina Nikolova, lead author of the study. “When you see that your partner is acting selfishly, it is better to let it go and act altruistically instead; let them make the decision because this will ultimately ensure a better outcome for you than if you act selfishly too.”



According to the researchers, in the joint decision-making of an altruistic and selfish consumer, the selfish partner would willingly express his/her desired preference while the altruistic partner will likely accept these suggestions. Since consumers’ preferences are more similar than they recognise, an altruistic individual will likely get an option that he/she somewhat prefers even when a selfish partner drives the decision. Thus, regardless of who drives the decision, both partners are likely to reach a joint decision that is relatively preferred by both of them.

According to Nikolova, conventional wisdom suggests that standing one’s ground is associated with positive outcomes. But that’s not necessary. “Two selfish heads do worse than one altruistic and one selfish head; two selfish consumers jointly choose options that neither of them prefers. This happens because both partners are likely to be rigidly self-oriented when negotiating with others,” she said.

For those who are selfish, conceding runs counter to their nature. The study found that selfish individuals are likely to meet suggestions with counteroffers even when the suggestions somewhat coincide with their own preferences. And that’s not good.

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