Tag Archives: decision-making

How Different Cultures Define Choice

In her book The Art of Choos­ing, psy­cho­lo­gist Sheena Iyengar—the exper­i­menter who con­duc­ted the ori­gin­al stud­ies lead­ing to the para­dox of choice the­ory—looks at the cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences in the defin­i­tion and accept­ance of choice.

Take a mundane ques­tion: Do you choose to brush your teeth in the morn­ing? Or do you just do it? Can a habit or cus­tom be a choice? When Iyengar asked Japan­ese and Amer­ic­an col­lege stu­dents in Kyoto to record all the choices they made in a day, the Amer­ic­ans included things like brush­ing their teeth and hit­ting the snooze but­ton. The Japan­ese did­n’t con­sider those actions to be choices. The two groups lived sim­il­ar lives. But they defined them dif­fer­ently.

In a review of the book, Iyengar is quoted as say­ing “the optim­al amount of choice lies some­where in between infin­ity and very little, and that optim­um depends on con­text and cul­ture”. I’ve pos­ted before on how we may be over­es­tim­at­ing the para­dox of choice the­ory.

via Mind Hacks

Information, Not Recommendation, the Best Advice

Attempt­ing to dis­cov­er the most effect­ive way to offer advice, research­ers iden­ti­fied four sep­ar­ate types of advice:

  • Advice for is a recom­mend­a­tion to pick a par­tic­u­lar option.
  • Advice against is a recom­mend­a­tion to avoid a par­tic­u­lar option.
  • Inform­a­tion sup­plies a piece of inform­a­tion that the decision maker might not know about.
  • Decision sup­port sug­gests how to go about mak­ing the choice, but does not make a spe­cif­ic recom­mend­a­tion.

Their study showed that inform­a­tion advice was the most valu­able to those mak­ing decisions, for a num­ber of reas­ons:

For one thing, when someone makes a recom­mend­a­tion for or against a par­tic­u­lar option, a decision maker may feel like they have lost a bit of their inde­pend­ence in mak­ing a choice. Recom­mend­a­tions about how to go about mak­ing the choice may also make a decision maker feel a loss of inde­pend­ence. When the advice comes in the form of inform­a­tion, though, the decision maker still feels like they have some autonomy.

Second, inform­a­tion helps people to make future decisions in the same domain. New pieces of inform­a­tion often make people aware of dimen­sions of a decision that they had nev­er con­sidered before. A recom­mend­a­tion for or against a par­tic­u­lar option is use­ful for the spe­cif­ic decision that you are mak­ing at a giv­en time, but that advice may not be as help­ful in the future.

Finally, get­ting inform­a­tion makes people feel more con­fid­ent in the decision they ulti­mately make. The inform­a­tion provides reas­ons for or against a par­tic­u­lar option. There is a lot of evid­ence that people feel bet­ter about decisions when they are able to give a reas­on for mak­ing the choice. Inform­a­tion provides a good jus­ti­fic­a­tion for a choice.

via Life­hack­er

Evidence-Based Methods to Become Lucky

In an attempt to dis­cov­er wheth­er there were genu­ine per­son­al­ity traits that sep­ar­ate the lucky from the unlucky, Richard Wise­man stud­ied 400 people over a num­ber of years and dis­covered that there are indeed beha­vi­our­al dif­fer­ences between the lucky and luck­less—and that we can ‘learn’ these traits to improve our luck.

Wise­man states that the lucky “gen­er­ate good for­tune via four basic prin­ciples”:

  • Cre­at­ing and noti­cing chance oppor­tun­it­ies.
  • Mak­ing lucky decisions by listen­ing to their intu­ition.
  • Cre­at­ing self-ful­filling proph­es­ies via pos­it­ive expect­a­tions.
  • Adopt­ing a resi­li­ent atti­tude that trans­forms bad luck into good.

And by real­ising this and fol­low­ing three simple tech­niques, you can improve your luck:

  1. Fol­low your intu­ition and respect hunches in decision mak­ing.
  2. Intro­duce vari­ety into your life.
  3. See the pos­it­ive side of mis­for­tune: ima­gine how things could be worse.

Of the people that fol­lowed this advice, 80% iden­ti­fied improve­ments to their luck and over­all hap­pi­ness.

Epiphanies Through Daydreams

Research aimed at dis­cov­er­ing how ‘Eureka moments’ are triggered and how these moments of clar­ity and insight dif­fer from typ­ic­al meth­od­ic­al reas­on­ing has found that not only are epi­phanies more likely when we’re day­dream­ing, but our state of mind before we tackle a prob­lem is also cru­cial.

They mater­i­al­ize without warn­ing, often through an uncon­scious shift in men­tal per­spect­ive that can abruptly alter how we per­ceive a prob­lem. […] In fact, our brain may be most act­ively engaged when our mind is wan­der­ing and we’ve actu­ally lost track of our thoughts, a new brain-scan­ning study sug­gests. “Solv­ing a prob­lem with insight is fun­da­ment­ally dif­fer­ent from solv­ing a prob­lem ana­lyt­ic­ally”.

[…] Even before we are presen­ted with a prob­lem, our state of mind can affect wheth­er or not we will likely resort to insight­ful think­ing. People in a pos­it­ive mood were more likely to exper­i­ence an insight.

Anoth­er find­ing that fas­cin­ated me was that by mon­it­or­ing the brain waves of the par­ti­cipants, research­ers could pre­dict who would solve a prob­lem through insight up to eight seconds before the answer actu­ally mater­i­al­ised con­sciously.

One les­son to remem­ber from the research: the wan­der­ing, day­dream­ing mind is a cru­cial and import­ant men­tal state where our brains are unusu­ally act­ive.

Validation vs Correctness

In order to avoid cog­nit­ive dis­son­ance you have a num­ber of choices. Primar­ily: select­ive expos­ure and/or con­firm­a­tion bias. Research­ers from a num­ber of US uni­ver­sit­ies are now attempt­ing to quanti­fy these phe­nom­ena, look­ing at how we seek val­id­a­tion as opposed to cor­rect­ness.

The research­ers found that people are about twice as likely to select inform­a­tion that sup­ports their own point of view (67 per­cent) as to con­sider an oppos­ing idea (33 per­cent). Cer­tain indi­vidu­als, those with close-minded per­son­al­it­ies, are even more reluct­ant to expose them­selves to dif­fer­ing per­spect­ives […] They will opt for the inform­a­tion that cor­res­ponds to their views nearly 75 per­cent of the time.

The research­ers also found, not sur­pris­ingly, that people are more res­ist­ant to new points of view when their own ideas are asso­ci­ated with polit­ic­al, reli­gious or eth­ic­al val­ues.

[…] Per­haps more sur­pris­ingly, people who have little con­fid­ence in their own beliefs are less likely to expose them­selves to con­trary views than people who are very con­fid­ent in their own ideas.

As an author of the study (pdf) sug­gests, maybe those who fall vic­tim to select­ive expos­ure and the con­firm­a­tion bias do so because the new inform­a­tion “might pre­vent them from liv­ing the lives they’re liv­ing”. Sounds almost like an evol­u­tion­ary response to pre­vent dis­son­ance.

via @anibalmastobiza