Snap or Nap Judgments

When it comes to making decisions, most people say that they barely think about simple, daily choices but deliberate over more complex matters. This explains why we humans are not masters at making decisions.

Ap Dijksterhuis and his colleagues at the University of Amsterdam have been studying the “deliberation-without-attention effect.” The core argument is that when considering options in a complex problem, it is better not to think too much.

The more complex a situation, the more there is a chance to overload your cognitive resources. When you instead sleep on it, or distract yourself with something mindless or a physical activity, you give your unconscious a chance to sort through possible solutions which is more effective than consciously trying to sift through pros and cons.

This does not suggest that we should make snap judgments about complex issues. You need to give your decisions time to brew in your head. You intuitive friend or knee-jerk manager can make as many poor decisions as you do when you worry yourself to sleep.

On the other hand, we often make simple choices based on past experiences, and then regret them later. Whether you are choosing a new pair of socks or what to do with a free hour in your day, you might want to think twice before taking action. How many times do you leave simple things to habit, like driving to work, eating and exercising? “It is often beneficial to think consciously about simple matters and to delegate thinking about more complex matters to the unconscious.” Dijksterhuis said.

BRAIN TIP #1: For simple matters—spend more time becoming aware of what you are doing throughout the day. Practice presence. Be conscious of your choices. This increases both mindful decision-making and appreciation.

BRAIN TIP #2: For complex situations—spend time brainstorming options. Then, once you are sure that you have explored the problem from all angles, go do something else that will distract your thinking brain. Take a nap, go to a movie, play with a child, balance your checkbook, or do a crossword puzzle. Even reading a gossip magazine is more effective than rewinding the problem over and over in your mind. Then, the next day when you feel refreshed, review the list of possibilities once and make a choice. It is likely that this is your best solution, at least for now. If the problem recurs over time, repeat the process, being open to choosing a different solution next time (if all you are going to do is defend your previous decision, you are wasting the gift of silent deliberation).

So choose your lunch carefully but go with your gut when hiring the new employee. You’ll be amazed at how wise you are.

 

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