Big decision? Sleep on it
Men have a tendency to make snap decisions. Some businessmen even pride themselves on it. But is it such a good idea? Not according to new research published in Science magazine.
The study, carried out by psychologists at the University of Amsterdam, showed that when it came to big decisions like buying a car or a house, men were much more satisfied with their decisions when they were made after they had slept on them.
The researchers say that conscious thought tends to over-focus on a small area of information and is not as effective when it comes to weighing up complexities as the sub-concious.
Concious thought is fine for a choice that does not have a lot of variables like buying toilet paper but not good enough for a decision that will have an impact on your life or — if made in a business context — on the lives of others. These need to be given a little time in the sub-concious and the easiest way to do that is through sleep.
Lead researcher Dr. Ap Dijksterhuis drew a disctinction between simple choices and complex decisions.
He told Reuters: 'The take-home message is that when you have to make a decision, the first step should be to get all the information necessary for the decision. Once you have the information, you have to decide, and this is best done with conscious thought for simple decisions, but left to unconscious thought -- to 'sleep on it' -- when the decision is complex.'
The psychologists call this 'deliberation-without-attention'. Their research showed that it worked in both the lab and in real studies of real shoppers.
For example, in a car-shopping experiment, participants read a complex series of facts about cars they were considering purchasing. Immediately afterwards, they were given puzzles to keep their conscious selves busy.
After working on the puzzles, this group of purchasers reported greater satisfaction with their car choice than did subjects who were given no puzzles and had to decide what car to purchase immediately after consciously pondering the facts.
But for making simple decisions, such choosing between different sets of towels, conscious deliberations were all that was needed to make satisfying choices.
Page created on February 20th, 2006
Page updated on December 1st, 2009