The Impact of a Coin Toss on Major Life Decisions

This paper concludes that people are excessively cautious when making big decisions. This corresponds to my personal experience, and is a nice reminder (from an unlikely source) that I am biased towards being too cautious and should be mindful of this bias.


Little is known about whether people make good choices when facing important decisions. This article reports on a large-scale randomized field experiment in which research subjects having difficulty making a decision flipped a coin to help determine their choice.

For important decisions (e.g. quitting a job or ending a relationship), individuals who are told by the coin toss to make a change are more likely to make a change, more satisfied with their decisions, and happier six months later than those whose coin toss instructed maintaining the status quo.

This finding suggests that people may be excessively cautious when facing life-changing choices,

Source (PDF)

The Review of Economic Studies, Volume 88, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages 378–405, link