A vignette study of option refusal and decision deferral as two forms of decision avoidance: Situational and personal predictors
The avoidance of a decision is a phenomenon that has been studied in various forms and psychological disciplines. Nevertheless, previous studies often lacked the integration of situational as well as personal factors in predicting decision avoidance. Additionally, studies about conditions that affect different forms of decision avoidance are still lacking. Therefore, this study investigated how situational and personal factors influenced two different forms of decision avoidance: 1) the option
... nce: 1) the option of deferring choice to a later point in time (decision deferral) and 2) the option to refuse both alternatives (option refusal). Furthermore, this study aimed to analyze how the participants experienced their avoidance behavior. This served the purpose of capturing functional and dysfunctional avoidance out of a subjective perspective instead of providing predefined best options. A vignette study based on realistic decision-making scenarios within a student's daily life was conducted. In an online survey, N = 312 participants chose to decide, to defer choice, or to refuse options in the context of eight vignettes. Situational factors (time pressure, lack of information, and attractiveness of alternatives) were systematically varied. Additionally, the following personal factors were captured by questionnaires: indecisiveness, decision-making styles, and the need for cognitive closure. Further factors were captured, but not systematically varied: selection difficulty, importance of a decision, and similarity of alternatives. The individual satisfaction with decision-making behavior was evaluated as an indicator of subjective decision quality. The results showed that decision deferral was affected by situational factors (primarily due to time pressure), selection difficulty, and individual indecisiveness. The refusal of current alternatives was exclusively influenced by situational factors, mainly the manipulated attractiveness of the choice-set. The results emphasize the functionality of refusing unattractive options and help to distinguish adaptive and maladaptive coping forms in decision-making.