Let me blow your mind a bit: When you choose things, you’re not choosing based on personal preferences. Your choices are somewhat random, and you’re wired to like them.
Every day you choose between nearly identical sodas and sunglasses and seats. Psychologists have long known that over time those choices lead to biases, such as always reaching for a Sprite or Dr. Pepper or Coke. Now researchers at Johns Hopkins have found the same behavior in babies, whom they watched (over and over and over again) as they randomly chose a block from a room full of identical ones—and then stopped liking all the others.
This suggests that we like things because we chose them, which is very different than what we think we’re doing, choosing things because we like them. The babies’ behavior implies that this penchant for dismissing all the non-chosen options is a fundamental and hardwired part of human behavior.
You’ve seen this phenomenon in action any time a friend raves about a product or neighborhood or brand without an obvious basis for her enthusiasm: She’s just justifying her previous choice.
A follow-up study presented babies with shiny new toys alongside the toy they’d previously picked out of a room full of identical toys, and the babies gravitated toward the previously picked toy, indicating that they weren’t choosing based on personal preference or intrinsic traits of the toy. They were just doubling down on their previous choice. As one does.