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Developed by the renowned social psychologist, Ellen Langer, the “illusion of control” is the tendency for people to overestimate how much they can control events and outcomes. The classic example is choosing to go on a long road trip rather than take a plane simply because you’re afraid to fly. That said, even if you don’t have a severe phobia when it comes to flying, you’re likely susceptible to the phenomenon to some degree. Many people already know that, statistically, flying is safer than driving. Yet, because it feels like we have control over the situation when we’re behind the wheel, we also tend to feel safer, even when we know we’re not. It sounds simple enough to understand, but, in fact, the illusion of control is one of the most important and widely cited cognitive biases in all of psychology.

At the same time, the illusion of control is far from absolute. It tends to be observed only when the outcome is more highly determined by chance, for example. In fact, in situations where we do have control over the outcome, the exact opposite effect may be observed in which we underestimate how much control we have. In other words, we like to pretend that we have more control over random outcomes than we do as a buffer against a sense of helplessness. Yet, we also like to pretend we have less control than we do when we are responsible for outcomes as a buffer against shame and egotism. Indeed, many psychologists have since argued that the illusion of control is a positive illusion that fosters mental health.


How Skill Cues Make Self-Storage More Vulnerable to the Illusion of Control

Langer also explored situations and conditions that seemed to enhance, or diminish, the illusion of control. She found that skill cues—or the exercise of a skill, choice, or knowledge about a particular situation—increased the illusion of control, even when the participant still had no direct control over the final outcome.

The classic example here is rolling dice in a game of chance. People playing craps, for example, tend to throw the dice harder when they’re trying for high numbers and softer when they’re trying for low numbers. Yet, it’s amazing how easily the illusion of control and skill cues can be applied to storage. By renting a moving vehicle, loading the storage, driving to a self-storage facility, and organizing the unit space, people feel like they have control over their storage project, when in fact any number of common hassles are out of their control.


Smart Storage Decisions Reflect Both Sides of the Illusion

To this point, the illusion of control isn’t just a psychological theory. Storage is far from the only real-world example. Let’s go back to driving for a moment. You may assume that you know the local neighborhood so well that only a blatantly reckless other driver threatens your storage. Yet, even when everybody is following the rules of the road, deadly accidents still occur. That treacherous intersection which is poorly signed and comes with a blind corner isn’t just in your head.

Here’s the argument in a nutshell: Avoid the inflated sense of control you get when using a self-storage unit. Recognize that where you do have control is by making a better decision from the start. Closetbox offers complimentary pickup, online and itemized inventories, and on-demand returns for about the same total cost as traditional self-storage units. Don’t let the illusion of control disguise the fact that reasonably-priced, full-service storage consistently leads to better outcomes for your project.