“It is what a man thinks of himself that really determines his fate,” declared Henry David Thoreau. “Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds,” echoed President Franklin Roosevelt.
Such statements exemplify the American attitude that we’re in charge of our own destinies. But even in this country, many still cling to the idea of fate—that belief that important outcomes are predestined and beyond our control.
Why do we resign ourselves to that state of powerlessness? Newly published research provides one possible answer: It helps us avoid the emotional pain of making tough choices.
Two studies published in the journal Psychological Science “provide consistent and converging evidence that decision difficulty can motivate increased belief in fate,” write Duke University researchers Aaron Kay, Simone Tang, and Steven Shepherd. “These results offer a new understanding of a ubiquitous and consequential belief system.”
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