Do we make our own decisions? I understand this is rather an unusual, even ridiculous, question, but it’s worth discussing it, and digging deeper into this subject.
This is one of the best Ted talk on decision-making and control.
These are some interesting findings on the things that influence our decision making, or/and opinion.
Did you know that the font used in any blog, news, and journals influences on our decision to believe in the story we read? In 2012, New York Times columnist used a very interesting approach to test this idea.
First, he asked people to read the passage from a book that discusses the possibility of any cataclysmic events happening on Earth. Then, he used six random fonts (Trebuchet, Computer Modern, Georgia, Comic Sans, Helvetica and Baskerville) for a questionnaire, and asked people how many of them believed in what is written in the passage.
The results (45,524 people took the quiz) showed that Baskerville had a 1.5 percent advantage over other fonts in getting people to agree, and had the lowest rate on disagreement. Scientists believe that if and when something looks formal we lend credibility to it, unconsciously processing that information.
Did you know that careful color selection influence our mood and the decision to make a purchase? Color psychology has become the subject of many researches, that’s why interior decorators suggest we choose colors based on the feelings we want the room to have. Warm colors, browns and reds, make us feel warmer, while cold colors make us feel colder.
When plate color contrasts with food color, it appears we are more likely to think we are eating more, and take smaller portion sizes. When the plates are the same color as food, we eat more. The same goes with the size of the plates, the bigger the plates, the more we’ll eat.
Did you know that background music played in a store is affecting our shopping behavior? It all comes to our perception of time, music with faster beats and tempo makes us think we’ve spent less time shopping, which, in turn, will make us spend more time finding things to buy. Our brain isn’t focusing on how much time we spend in the store, but rather making us more susceptible to make a purchase.
Even more, it appears that a store will sell more French wines on days when French music was played, the same goes with German music and wines. The most interesting thing is that customers didn’t even remember playing the music in the store.
Did you know that if there isn’t enough oxygen in a room, chances are we’re going to make a bad decision? This, in fact, makes a lot of sense. In one study, researchers were analyzing how CO2 levels in a working space influence our cognitive ability. When levels of oxygen were below the recommended level, our cognitive abilities decrease.
This was a huge surprise for me, did you know that the more decisions we make, the more we experience difficulty to decide? It’s not the matter of the difficulty, but rather the quantity. We experience decision fatigue. Each time we make a decision, our decision-making ability is “decreasing”, and it’s a fact we make a lot of decisions during the day, from what to eat for breakfast, what clothes to wear, which book to read, and more. The problem is that most of the time we are not aware we are mentally drained. In the study mentioned above, we see how judges’ decisions were influenced by mental fatigue, where prisoners’ appeals earlier in the day were more successful than those judges listen to later on.
Friends and family influence our decisions, and this is not surprise at all. However, it is one thing to ask your friend to help you decide which dress to wear, and it’s completely other thing when your chances of starting to smoke are greater when your friends smoke (or quitting, for that matter). The mere presence of friends who smoke can influence on your decision to start smoking. One study did a research and showed that if your best friend is obese, your chances of growing obese are 57% greater.
So, what is our solution? How to make better decisions?
#1 Sleep on it. Our conscious attention is limited, and sometimes we need help from our unconscious, especially for complex decision making. If we don’t have an option to postpone our decision, even if we do something else, other activities, can help us make a better choice.
#2 Sleep better. Sleep deprivation (less than six hours of sleep) messes with the region of brain associated with decision-making.
#3 Develop routines. Stress presents a barrier in decision-making, thus by developing routines that decrease the stress with self-control, one will have energy for important decisions. Successful people use their self-control not to go through crises, but to avoid them, the research explains.
#4 Make decisions in the morning. It appears the morning is the best time to make decisions with the right combination of serotonin and dopamine levels.
#6 Use foreign language. This is probably the most interesting study on decision-making and brain processes. If you know a foreign language, this practice can be very useful. The emotional effects when speaking a foreign language differ to the one we know, they don’t have the same emotional effect on us the way our native language has. This emotional distance can help us make better decisions.
#7 Select your choices. If you keep wasting your mental energy on less important choices, you will have no energy to resolve complex situations. Cut down your choices to a shortlist, and you will have an easier task to do.
#8 Let the fresh air in. Try to keep fresh air circulating in your office or home and keep the CO2 levels low to improve your cognitive functions.
Steal a little time from your busy schedule and rethink how you make decisions every day. Do you make your own decisions?
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