Strangers Are The Best Decision Makers

man and woman on bench with laptop

A Harvard University study claims that when in doubt ask a stranger.

A study was released from Harvard University today claiming strangers know better than you on what will make you happy.

The study claims if you haven't tried something (or someone), asking someone who has (and taking their advice) is a better choice than stubbornly trying it on your own and being disappointed.

This is chancy and far-fetched, we know, but these researchers swear on their Ivy League credentials that experience is way overrated, and a word to the wise is just time saved in the end.

"People do not realize what a powerful source of information another person's experience can be," says Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology at Harvard and author of the 2007 bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, "because they mistakenly believe that everyone is remarkably different from everyone else. But the fact is that an alien who knew all the likes and dislikes of a single human being would know a great deal about the species. People believe that the best way to predict how happy they will be in the future is to know what their future holds, but what they should really want to know is how happy those who've been to the future actually turned out to be."

Well, well! You got that, reader? You aren't even a fraction as unique as you think you are. So much for cultivating good taste!

However, the experiments conducted to which these conclusions were drawn, were, uh, let's just call them arguable.

One centered around speed dating. One group of women looked at a picture and write-up of a guy's interests, and another group got an actual face to face review from a woman who had dated said guy. Not surprisingly, the women who talked to the ex had a better gauge on whether or not they would be a good match than someone who just saw a profile picture and list of hobbies.

Uh, yeah. Duh. And these Harvard researchers were surprised by this?

"Rather than closing our eyes and imagining the future, we should examine the experience of those who have been there," Gilbert said.

Fair enough, but then how is wisdom ever gleaned? It's not as if all prospective dates come with flesh and blood testimonials, and what if our neighbor down the street is really into arrogant loudmouths who live with their mothers.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.