Saying “It’s fine, I don’t mind,” when deciding on a meal or a movie is the worst possible answer, say researchers.
You may think you’re being easy-going and cooperative, but the truth is that others will be convinced you do have a preference. You just won’t say what it is.
They assume your preferred meal or movie isn’t the same as theirs. So they try to second-guess what you actually want and end up with a choice that pleases nobody.
Such apparent indifference, or refusal to disclose, is a lose-lose option, says Dr. Yonat Zwebner, assistant professor of marketing at Reichman University, Herzliya. It can damage the shared experience and even the relationship.
“If your friend says: ‘I don’t care, you choose,’ he actually makes it more difficult for you to make a decision and even leads you choose your less preferred option, despite the fact that he believes he is making it easier for you,” she said.
In a series of six studies using both hypothetical and real life decisions, Dr. Zwebner and research colleagues found that “recipients of no-preference communication infer that the co-consumer (i.e., the person communicating having no preferences) actually does have preferences but is not disclosing them”.
The results of their research, entitled You Must Have a Preference: The Impact of No-Preference Communication on Joint Decision Making, are published in the Journal of Marketing Research.
“These perceptions of undisclosed preferences increase the decision makers’ decision difficulty and cause them to like the co-consumer less,” they say.
“Further, the authors find that the decision maker intuits that the co-consumer’s (undisclosed) preferences are probably dissimilar to their own, which leads them to choose an option they like less and ultimately decreases their enjoyment.”
Interestingly, they say, these negative effects are not anticipated by the party who communicates having no preference.