Why does the wrong seem right?

How do you make the right decision?

Distracting instead of thinking

The Dutch psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis, for example, recommends giving intuition a chance. "Weighing without paying attention" is his maxim. You shouldn't try desperately to fathom all the information and facts that are important for a decision, but think of other things and then trust your gut feeling.

In tests, he presented test subjects with a variety of product information about different cars - some of the test subjects were allowed to think about it, others had to solve puzzles.

The result: the test participants who were distracted were more likely to choose the best quality car. Dijksterhuis concluded that the subconscious maintains a very good overview of the wealth of information, while conscious reflection leads to misjudging facts.

Satisfying instead of optimal solution

The satisficing rule got its name from the US scientist Herbert Simon - he created this made-up word from the English terms "satisfying" and "suffice". This rule is suitable for those who have specific demands on something, but are not necessarily looking for the optimal solution.

You do not compare different possibilities with each other in parallel, but strike at the first option where everything is satisfactory. So if you have specific ideas about the appearance, wattage and price of your new microwave, you should not hesitate when you have found a device that meets these characteristics.

Weighing costs and benefits

If you are not satisfied with that, you can fall back on the cost-benefit concept of the US economist George Joseph Stigler: As long as the costs of obtaining the facts are below those of the actual benefit, we do not exhaust the framework and may give ourselves satisfied with a less than optimal solution.

But if the cost of searching for information is higher than the benefit, then we make a loss. When it comes to microwaves, this means that if we drive to ten stores to find out about different devices, the cost of gasoline is likely to be greater than the savings from buying the cheapest microwave.

And if we look for the information on the Internet, then one can hardly speak of material costs - but one can ask oneself whether it is worth researching for days and sacrificing time for other things.

Ten minutes, ten months, ten years

For the US-American author Suzy Welch, the number 10 plays the decisive role: In her 10-10-10 model, those who are still undecided should ask themselves what effects their decision will have in ten minutes, in ten months and in ten years becomes.

So if you are considering skipping communion for your godchild because you would rather go on a trip with friends, you should keep in mind: Perhaps the consequences of choosing the second option in ten minutes and ten months will not be as serious - in ten years but there could be the realization that you have missed an important moment in the life of the godchild.

Test drive through the alternatives

The situation is similar with a method that the theologian and author Lukas Niederberger calls "getting pregnant". He relies on Ignatius von Loyola, who founded the Jesuit order in the 15th century and who dealt with decision-making in his retreat.

Niederberger suggests that we clearly visualize all of our options during this "decision test drive". After that, we can pretend we've already made up our minds on an alternative and watch how we feel.

We should also imagine how we would feel about this decision in a few years' time. After three or four days we turn to the next option and again imagine that we have already chosen it.

At the end of this simulation, after weighing all the results, we should be closer to making a decision.

Perfectionism doesn't have to be

The most important rule in all decisions: Perfectionism doesn't have to be! The US psychologist and author Barry Schwartz sees the problem in the multitude of possibilities we have today. As they act, people kept looking over their shoulders and asking if they had just taken the wrong step in life, careers, or love.

Schwartz observed: "You struggle with doubts and are constantly dissatisfied because the better solution seems to be just another decision around the next corner."

For those who do not believe Barry Schwartz that less could sometimes be more, the French statesman Charles de Gaulle already knew: "It is better to make imperfect decisions than to constantly search for perfect decisions that will never come".

Do wrong decisions hurt?

What if we do discover that we have made the wrong decision? When we mourn missed opportunities and therefore doubt ourselves? Psychologists assume that we are already on the way to learn from these mistakes.

And a little consolation at the end: Research shows that people regret not doing things more than making the wrong decision. So it is better to take a risk and fall on your face in the process than to mourn for years an unused opportunity.