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(credit: Sarah Ross/CC)

What do we want? Control!

Control and freedom of choice are important to us, and we are prepared to pay real money for it. But things are not always that simple…

‘A la carte’ — a posh French phrase that implies something that is bespoke, something that is tailored to our specific preferences. It means that we can choose. The term stems from the pleasant world of gastronomy, where restaurants often offer a set menu on the one hand, and a wide range of starters, main courses, second courses, desserts and goodness knows what more, on the other hand.

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Choice doesn’t come cheap (image: Alpha/CC)

Paying for control

We are willing to pay for control. Not just in restaurants,

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They paid for our control with their lives (image: Stephen Curry/CC)

Good council is worth (more than) money

The researchers wanted to test whether people would make a sacrifice to be the choosers, rather than to delegate a choice in the face of potential losses and gains. The task they set in the experiment was straightforward. Participants were repeatedly presented with a pair of shapes, one of which was ‘better’ than the other. In one version of the task, making the right choice resulted in a gain of £10 and the wrong choice in no gain. In the other version, the right choice produced no loss, and the wrong choice a loss of £10.

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Back to reality

Before we project the findings of this study onto the real world, it is important to recognize an important constraint. The participants made their sacrifices out of future gains — none of them gave up any of their own money in the experiment. Furthermore, even those who ended up with a negative balance at the end were paid a positive amount in compensation.

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Source: YouGov survey, August 20, 2016 — via Eric Kaufmann

Written by

Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius

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