Do you make good decisions?

Do you feel you do…and do you actually?

This study in the International Journal of Psychology strove to uncover whether individualist or collectivist cultures were more confident in their decision-making.

It also examined various cultures’ decision-making styles and coping strategies.

Here’s what the study found.

The Subjects

Researchers recruited students from three individualistic Western countries (USA, Australia, and New Zealand) and three collectivist Eastern Asian cultures (Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) to participate in their experiment.

The purpose of the study was to measure participants’ confidence in their decision-making abilities and the coping patterns they employ.

The Statements

Participants were handed a questionnaire that would unveil the way they view their own decision-making. 

Rating themselves from 0 to 12, the questionnaire prompted with thought-provoking statements like:

  • I think I am a good decision maker
  • I like to consider all of the alternatives
  • I avoid making decisions
  • Even after I have made a decision, I delay acting upon it

This self-reflection and self-reporting led to some exciting finds.

The Coping Strategies

The coping strategies identified by the study included:

  • Vigilance – a careful decision-making style, where every alternative is thoroughly considered. 
  • Buck-passing – dodging decisions and shifting responsibility to someone else. 
  • Procrastination – delaying action even after a decision has been made. 
  • Hypervigilance – a panic-induced decision-making style that makes you feel like time is about to explode.

The Results 

The students from the individualistic Western countries displayed confidence in their decision-making abilities, while their collectivist Eastern Asian counterparts scored higher in buck-passing, avoiding decisions, and hypervigilance.

But what was surprising about this study was that, despite these cultural differences, all six countries showed similar ratings. 

Across all countries, all participants who had higher decision-making self-esteem were more likely to adopt adaptive coping patterns like vigilance. 

On the flip side, those who doubted their decision-making abilities were prone to fall into the abyss of maladaptive coping strategies – buck-passing, avoidance, and hypervigilance.

Potential Flaws in the Study

Some things to keep in mind about the potential flaws in this study are that decision-making strategies depend on the situation.

You might make impulsive decisions in some cases and vigilant ones in others. 

The study did not account for the varied approaches to decision-making according to different scenarios.

Moreover, the difference in cultural values may impact the self-reporting. 

For instance, in many Asian cultures, boasting about oneself or decision-making prowess isn’t the norm. This could have influenced the participants’ responses, leading to hidden biases.

Lastly, self-reporting on decision-making is, of course, subjective and may not align with actual behavior. To get to the bottom of that, researchers would have to observe the participants’ decision-making in action. 

Regardless of the approach, this study uncovers the dynamic relationship between culture, self-esteem, and coping strategies.

The bottom line is decision-making is complex – influenced by context, societal expectations, and our true behavior in the face of tough choices.

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