ScienceShot: How to Make Better Decisions

How to Make Better Decisions

Tobias Teichert

The next time you’re about to make an important decision, wait a second. Scientists have found that a brief pause can make the difference between the right choice and the wrong one. Researchers recruited 13 scientists at Columbia University and told them to follow the direction of different colored dots on a computer screen. The team found that the subjects took, on average, 120 milliseconds to shift their attention from one color to another and identify which direction the dots moved across the screen. Subjects who refrained from using the first 50 milliseconds of information made, on average, one extra correct decision per second. This suggests that the first pulses of information our brains receive are misleading, because distractions—in this case different colored dots—confuse the decision-making process. We are better off with an ounce of procrastination, the scientists report in PLOS ONE.

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