Contrary to economic theory, British researchers found that people often do not plan ahead when formulating a plan of action.
University of York researchers say the findings may have implications for public policy on long-term financial planning.
In a series of studies, the researchers show that when faced with a decision-making process designed to test whether they plan ahead, more than half those taking part fail to think ahead.
One experiment included two decision points, each of which gave two options. It was designed so decision makers who planned ahead achieved the best outcome, while those that did not took a route that only appeared to be most favorable. Thirty-six percent took the optimal decision at the first node, while 97 percent did at the second node.
"The experimental results are stark," study leader John Hey of the University of York, said in a statement. "More than half the participants in the experiment had behavior which implied that they do not plan ahead."