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My family loves to watch the TV show Cash Cab. Unsuspecting riders get in the cab and give a destination in NYC and the driver announces that this is a TV game show within a cab. It’s so much fun to try to answer the questions as the cash prize adds up. The penalty for 3 incorrect answers is that the cab ride ends and contestants have to get out; the reward for reaching their stop is a cash prize and a free cab ride. What’s not to love?

The ride ends with a double or nothing video bonus question. From the couch, I am always cheering the riders to “Go for it!” because it makes the show more exciting. Indeed, many riders do try the video option and most walk away with double the prize money. Why not? The contestants entered the cab expecting to pay for the ride and instead have gotten a free ride and a cash prize. There’s really nothing to lose in risking double or nothing. That’s what I would do if I were on Cash Cab, I think. It’s an easy decision to make when the stakes are not mine.

What would you do if presented with the same choice? Most people I’ve asked developed a rationale for making the decision. It would depend on how much money there was in the bank (or how much even the smaller sum was needed). It would depend on the amount of the cash offered. If less than a certain amount, the person would risk doubling it.

Most of us approach decision-making with some criteria based on personal experience.  What reasonable limits do we establish for ourselves for making decisions in advance?  What’s negotiable?  What’s not negotiable?  We are faced with decisions all the time at work and at home.  The stakes are usually not so clear so it can be harder to make a tough choice. Evaluating a list of pros and cons is a tried and true method for making such decisions because it helps clarify exactly what is at stake for the decision-maker. And it helps to remember whatever advice you get, from those of us sitting on the couch, you are the one who has to make and live with the decision.

In reality, I would probably walk away from the Cash Cab with a $600 prize in hand rather than risking double or nothing.  What would you do?

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