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Trying to Decide? Forget the Facts and Phone a Friend
Date:3/19/2009

Others' opinions prove better in predicting satisfaction with a choice, study finds

THURSDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- Imagine you're going to a movie. What would better predict whether you'll like the film: the opinion of a friend who's seen it or the details you know about the cast and plot?

Researchers say you'd be best to rely on your pal.

"If you are trying to figure out whether to become a lawyer or vacation in Bermuda, our research suggests you would do much better to ask people who are lawyers or have been to Bermuda about their experience than to gather factual information about each of these decisions," said Matthew Killingsworth, a Harvard graduate student and an author of the research, published in the March 20 issue of Science.

In essence, "if you want to know how happy something will make you, ask someone who's been there or done that," he said.

What does it matter? The study suggests that people are prone to make poor predictions when relying on what they know about something instead of on the opinions of others. Making matters more complicated, "people do not believe this," the study authors wrote.

In the study, researchers set up "speed dates" between heterosexual female and male undergraduates. The women met men for five minutes and then told researchers what they thought of them. The experiment involved 33 women and eight men.

Women did a better job of predicting whether they'd enjoy a date with a man if they'd previously read another woman's opinion about him based on a speed date. They did worse at predicting whether they'd like a man if they simply had a photo and basic information about him before the date.

In fact, the women were 50 percent less likely to wrongly predict whether they would enjoy the date if they had heard about the man from another woman, Killingsworth said.

Still, he said, "women think they will make better predic
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