FACING a difficult decision? Toss a coin. It will change your life.

This is the message from a new working paper, by Steven Levitt of the University of Chicago (the Freakonomist), which suggests people are too cautious for their own good. And he isn’t talking about the small-stakes decisions economists usually analyse—he is focused on big life choices, like whether to quit a job or end a relationship.

Working out whether people would be happier if they moved away from the status quo for big life decisions is tough. Running a randomised controlled trial would involve some tricky ethics and practicalities—we would rightly balk at the idea of Mr Levitt demanding that half of his sample group go get divorced to see whether they regret it. Mr Levitt got around such problems by making his experiment...Continue reading