I have seen varying opinions across a handful of stackexchange sites as to how long you should wait to accept an answer. This answer claims that you should wait as long as it takes to get a correct answer, but you may accept immediately after you get it.

I kind of see the accept check as a low-grade bounty, and typically once it has been given, people are less likely to answer (I don't have any proof for that, but it is probably true). Bounties require 24 hrs to award for many of the same reasons why you might want to wait to accept an answer. So why isn't accepting held to the same time restriction as awarding a bounty?

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    Can you award the bounty for a different answer after one has been awarded already? Can you accept a different answer? – Tom Nov 16 '17 at 17:49
  • "I kind of see the accept check as a low-grade bounty" - You shouldn't because accepting an answer indicates the answer answered the question where a bounty is designed to bring attention to a question or simply reward a helpful answer. "So why isn't accepting held to the same time restriction as awarding a bounty?" - There are restrictions, in certain cases, to accepting an answer by the way. – Ramhound Nov 16 '17 at 20:02
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    You do have to wait 24 hours for accepting your own answer, IIRC. – muru Nov 17 '17 at 3:40

Bounties can't be moved (or retracted) once awarded, while acceptances can. Accepted an answer and a better one came along later? You can totally fix that. Awarded a bounty and then found out the answer was wrong? Too bad for you, and misleading to future readers. Awarded a bounty and got a better answer? Well, you could start a second bounty...

Now you could say "well, tough luck for the bounty-giver who jumped the gun, then", but there are a couple other considerations:

  • Active bounties draw attention to questions, which means other people might be trying to provide good answers now. Giving people a chance to finish instead of just pouncing on the first one that comes in creates better incentives.

  • Bounties can be abused, and with much larger amounts of rep than the +15 from an acceptance. The community is better able to audit those if they can't come and go within an hour.

Accepting an answer, on the other hand, just means that the OP got what he was looking for. That can be useful signal to people deciding where to spend their answering time, so it makes sense not to artificially delay it. If someone writes a better answer the OP can decide to accept it instead.

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