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Choice Blindness: You Really Don’t Know What You Are Doing


When we make decisions at work, we are often asked to explain or defend our choices before and even after they have been put into effect. Studies show that people often are not aware of their choices after they have made them, and this “choice blindness” may have serious effects upon their behavior at work.

(Photo Credit: derekbruff/Flickr)

Choice Blindness

Do You Know What You're Worth?

In the past decade, at least two studies have documented this phenomenon.

In 2005, 120 study participants were shown a series of pairs of faces. The authors state that the faces were not similar. Participants had to choose which face looked more attractive. Researchers would slide the chosen photo across the table, and ask participants why this one was more attractive. However, sometimes the researchers employed a sleight-of-hand trick, and gave the participant the wrong photo. About 75 percent of the time, participants did not notice the switch.

In 2010, a similar experiment was done with jam tasting. People would taste two very different jams, such as a spicy apple and then a grapefruit. They got to choose their favorite, then were supposedly offered their favorite again and asked to explain what they liked better about it. You guessed it — researchers gave them the wrong jam. Choice blindness has been demonstrated with more than one sense, so it is reasonable to say it seems to be an issue with thinking, and not eyesight or taste buds.


In both studies, participants given the wrong picture or jam would come up with reasons that they liked this choice best. It was common behavior for people to rationalize their choices, even when the choice was wrong. People were more likely to find reasons to explain why they chose what they thought they had selected, rather than notice that they were handed the wrong picture or jam.

Relevance at Work

This says a lot about how we think, make choices, and get through our workdays. This tendency may be a wake-up call to be diligent and aware of the consequences of the choices we make.

If we make a decision that turns out badly, the human tendency seems to be to rationalize why it was a good choice. Instead of defending our decision, we would be better off taking a fresh look at the consequences and re-evaluating why we chose to do something and whether it really turned out the way we hoped it would. Heightened awareness would help us recognize when something is amiss. If we recognize that something is not right — for example, “this is not the picture I chose” or “I liked the other jam better” — then we will not spend time rationalizing our choice and will instead look for ways to improve the situation.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you make a lot of choices at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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