Klusowski, J., Small, D.A., & Simmons, J.P. (2021). Does choice cause an illusion of control? Psychological Science , 32(2), 159-172.
Previous research suggests that choice causes an illusion of control—that it makes people feel more likely to achieve preferable outcomes, even when they are selecting among options that are functionally identical (e.g., lottery tickets with an identical chance of winning). This research has been widely accepted as evidence that choice can have significant welfare effects, even when it confers no actual control.
In this article, we report the results of 17 experiments (N = 10,825 online/laboratory participants) examining whether choice truly causes an illusion of control. We find that choice rarely makes people feel more likely to achieve preferable outcomes—unless it makes the preferable outcomes actually more likely—and when it does, it is not because choice causes an illusion, but because choice reflects some participants’ pre-existing (illusory) beliefs that the functionally identical options are not identical.
All study materials, data, and code are available at the following link: https://osf.io/g2cbe/.