Whole Life Magazine

June/July 2013

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/133640

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Page 21 of 43

success tracks DECISIONS, DECISIONS By Margaret Heffernan Time of day and your last meal are as important as knowing the facts J udgment counts. As politically correct as the words "don't judge" may be, we all make judgments every day that are essential to our health and well-being. We like to think that we make the big ones with enough time, care and attention that we can be reasonably certain that they are rational, consistent and safe. This is no less true in business than it is in love, education or how we vote. But just how consistent and careful are we? How far are our decisions influenced by external trivia? That's the question three business school academics set out to answer when they studied decision-making by parole judges. The law was a good testing ground; legal decisions are more rules-bound than those made in business and therefore presumably less susceptible to wide variation. Deciding on a prisoner's parole is a palpably serious issue that warrants, and gets, serious, concerted attention, so you'd expect consistent 22 decision making. But what they found was shocking: It was more likely that a prisoner would be granted parole if the application was heard at the very beginning of the workday or after a food break. The reasons for this are intriguing and important, and involve two primary elements: •Energyconsumption.Makinganykindofchoice—whether buying a car, a dress or a house, or hiring an employee—depletes mental resources. That's one reason you get hungry and crave sugary foods; your brain quite literally wants energy in the form of glucose. • Inadvertent simplification. As your brain gets tired, it strives to conserve energy, and it does so by simplifying choices. We are more likely to accept the status quo when a decision is needed after many have already been made. Over time, we just reach for the simplest answer. wholelifetimesmagazine.com FINAL REDESIGN WLT-5-27-11pm.indd 22 5/28/13 11:12 AM

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