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Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

your unconscious makes better decisions than you

If emotions are shut out of the decision-making process, we’re likely to overthink a decision, and that has been shown to produce worse outcomes on even the simplest tasks. In one classic experiment, when volunteers focused on the attributes of various strawberry jams they had just rated, it completely scrambled their preferences, and they wound up giving a high rating to a jam they disliked and a low rating to one they had found delicious.

A series of new studies suggest that a kind of information sickness brought on by data overload makes it harder for us to make decisions, and that when we do make decisions they tend to be bad ones. The takeaways:

  • Deal with data in batches. Your unconscious mind is what makes the abstract connections necessary for creative leaps, but it can't make those connections if your brain is being constantly deluged by new information (I've received 50 new tweets while typing this sentence). Step back. Digest info as a set so your brain can have the breathing room to play.
  • Set priorities. Find out what pieces of information are pivots for your decision. Focus on those, and ignore the glut of other data. You'll be happier with your decision.
  • Figure out how you process. Do you know when you have enough data to make your decision, or do you keep looking for more info until you're so inundated with stuff that you're paralyzed by indecision? Researchers call the former "sufficers" and the latter "maximizers." If you're a maximizer (not that I would know anything about that) it may be time to scale down your intake. It could be doing you more harm than good.

The Science of Making Decisions - Newsweek.