London - We may like to think we control our own destiny ... but when it comes to tough decisions, most people give up and rely on fate.

Psychologists have found that the concept exists in all human cultures and was developed as a way of dealing with difficult and uncomfortable decisions.

They claim that people invoke fate in order to say to themselves: “It’s out of my hands now, there’s nothing I can do.”

Study author Aaron Kay, of Duke University, in North Carolina, US, said: “Fate is a ubiquitous supernatural belief, spanning time and place.

“It exerts a range of positive and negative effects on health, coping, and both action and inaction.”

He added: “Belief in fate, defined as the belief that whatever happens was supposed to happen and that outcomes are ultimately predetermined, may be especially useful when one is facing these types of difficult decisions.”

The researchers studied voting choices before the 2012 US presidential election. Two weeks before the poll, they conducted an online survey of 189 people and found that the greater difficulty participants reported in choosing between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the more likely they were to believe in fate.

A second survey, carried out two days before the election, gave similar results.

The paper, published in the journal Psychological Science, concluded: “Belief in fate may ease the psychological burden of a difficult decision, but whether that comes at the cost of short-circuiting an effective decision-making process is an important question for future research.” - Daily Mail