Saturday, January 23, 2010

Too Crowded In There

So I was "lean"-ing up my bedroom/office this morning (to use Toyota-speak), and listening to podcasts, particularly to yesterday's reprise of an earlier "Fresh Air" broadcast. Terry was speaking with author Jonah Lehrer about his book "How We Decide," which is a book about why it is so difficult for many of us to make any decision, simple or complex as it may be.

During one point in the interview Lehrer talked about a study that had been done regarding how our stress load or daily build-up of decision making can affect our ability to make a healthier decision later in the day. I listen to these podcasts as a passive listener most of the time, but at this point in the interview I started to pay closer attention. I've often said that I make incredibly dumb decisions in my personal life because I'm burnt out from mental exertion at an incredible pace at work. The study that Lehrer spoke of seemed to confirm this. Two groups of people were involved in this study--one group of people was given a two-digit number to memorize, and the other group of people was given a seven-digit number to memorize. After having memorized their numbers, both groups were taken to a cafeteria to have a snack--their choice of a slice of frosted devil's food cake, or a dish of fresh, mixed fruit. The subjects who were asked to memorize the two-digit number chose more fruit than the subjects who were asked to memorize the seven-digit number. Lehrer explains that this happens because the part of your brain that makes a decisions is also the same part of the brain that is used for problem-solving.

So, he says, if you have a hard day at work or you spend the morning doing a difficult crossword puzzle, you should be aware of this when you make a decision later in the day.

In other words--not to dismiss your actions because of this, but--GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.

No wonder my personal life decisions have sucked for so long.

Give yourself a break, dear reader.

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