Making up your mind

The cover story of this week’s New Scientist has ten useful tips for making better decisions, based on current scientific knowledge of how your mind works. It’s for subscribers only, of course, so here’s a quick summary…

  1. Don’t fear the consequences. People routinely over-estimate the bad effects of a wrong decision. You’re better at coping with adverse outcomes than you fear.
  2. Go with your gut instincts. Your subconscious judgement is better than you probably realise.
  3. Listen to your emotions. They’re actively involved in analysing every decision you make.
  4. Play the devil’s advocate. Your mind tends to accumulate information that supports your first choice and ignores the rest. Actively seek out data which counters your initial thinking.
  5. Keep focused on the actual question. You mind has the habit of latching onto irrelevant facts.
  6. Know when to cut your losses. What’s past is past. Don’t “throw good money after bad.”
  7. Look at it another way. The very way you word a question can bias your answers. That’s called the framing effect.
  8. Beware of social pressure — especially if everyone seems to be going along with the group. The group isn’t always right.
  9. Limit your options. Facing too many choices can paralyse you.
  10. Have someone else choose. Having choice doesn’t necessarily bring happiness.

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