Decision Fatigue

The other day I read a New York Times article on “Decision Fatigue” and it has been intriguing me ever since.  It is fascinating for it helps us understand a little more the things that affect the mind and how it works.   We all know that when we are tired, the brain functions a little less, we make human errors, we make mistakes, we start becoming unintelligible, and if we are really tired, we start to resemble a zombie.  However, what we don’t realize is that in the course of day to day life we may make a lot of decisions without realizing we are actually tired and that this “tiredness” is affecting how we decide.

The article cites a research that was done on parole hearings.  Those heard early in the morning, or after coffee breaks and lunch were more likely to get parole than those who were heard later in the day.  This is even if they had the same profile.  I feel sorry for those being heard later in the day.  The reason being is that being “tired” the judges make the easiest and safest decision.  That is, not make a decision. Parole not granted.

The phenomenon’s discoverer is the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and he calls this “ego
depletion.”

Thinking about it, I think it makes good sense.  I mean, after an entire day of deciding what to do, what not to do, would A be better than C?, what should one eat for breakfast, lunch dinner? how should one’s tailored suit be? should one go exercise? should one call D? how should one approach a certain situation etc.. the list is endless.

Yes, it’s related to everything. Even shopping and I think also eating.  The article mentions how having to decide on materials for a bespoke suit, the shopper grows tired and eventually settles for whatever the shop recommends.  The hungry and exhausted person will grab and eat whatever is in front of them.

I find myself giving the same response when I am hungry.   I look at the list of menus, and being “fatigue” I sometimes just ask the restaurant what is good, what is recommended.  That is what I’ll end up eating on those especially tiring days.  My mind is too tired to “decide.”

This applies to everything. If you have a difficult decision to make that you don’t want to make.  Sometimes the easiest route for the tired mind is to just avoid the problem and not make a decision.  Too much information needs to be processed.  The mind is tired, but little does it know that this “fatigue” can have long term consequences.

Reading this, I think one has to be aware of one’s body and be aware if it’s tired or not.  A best way would be to schedule in breaks and rest time during the day.  A ten minute break might do wonders for the mind and you’d find that it will help you make decisions faster, rather than opting for the easiest response which is to do nothing.

Have a break, give your brain a little pick up and make better decisions, whether it be on what dress to buy or what food to eat.  🙂

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