Imagine having to decide whether or not to go on a blind date. You might be hesitant if you’re the one meeting the mystery girl. But if your buddy was in your shoes, you’d probably encourage him to go without hesitation.
New research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison says that might be key: If you can’t make up your own mind, pretend to make up someone else’s.
In the study, some people answered survey questions about how they would respond in certain situations, while the rest of the participants made choices for other people in the same hypothetical scenarios.
The scientists found that people preferred to decide for others. “It’s less draining, less taxing, and generally just less annoying than making choices for ourselves,” says lead study author Evan Polman, Ph.D.
The reason: You spend a lot of time and energy thinking about every possible outcome of your own choices, which can lead to something called “decision fatigue,” Polman says.
When you’re tired of considering all those consequences, you end up picking the most convenient option, even if it isn’t the right one.
But you’re not under any kind of stress when you help your friends make choices. After all, they have to deal with the repercussions—not you. So you’re more likely to make an easy, more creative decision, the study suggests.
Using the blind date example, you may even suggest activities for your buddy that you’ve never considered for your own Friday night. And that’s the perk: “Thinking how you’d decide for others can reveal ideas and solutions you wouldn’t normally come up with,” says Polman.
This trick won’t work for huge decisions like buying a house or changing jobs, Polman says. But if you’re stuck debating weekend plans, restaurants, or even Netflix shows, the strategy could help unlock the right choice.