Feel confident in your decisions with this mental exercise

AAs humans, certain experiences connect us all. For example, spending an hour trying to find something to watch, very often muttering “oh, that sounds pretty interesting” before clicking on the next suggestion… only to end up watching reruns of a favorite show while looking at your phone. Decisions are hard, even though they feel like they should be simple. And a multitude of things can affect our decision-making abilities, from being hungry (seriously, it’s a thing) to feeling anxious. Oh yeah, and the pandemic has caused almost a third of us to experience “decision paralysis,” which is exactly what it sounds like – the struggle to make even the smallest decisions. And when you’re making up your mind about something, it can be hard to feel confident about the decisions.

A little light at the end of the tunnel: Decisiveness is a trait you can learn, and it’s possible not only to make choices, but also to be sure that we’ve made the best for ourselves. The decisions seem fair to us ‘if we have weighed the options as carefully as possible – and if we are aware that we have done so’, according to the new research published earlier this month in ScienceDaily.

Unfortunately for myself and my overthinking classmates, it has little to do with the amount of time you spend weighing the possible outcomes of a decision. It’s more a matter of self-awareness and introspection. The researchers found that “the ability to question and revise bad decisions depends on our ability to judge for ourselves whether we have carefully weighed the options or got sidetracked during the decision-making process” .

Although this is a small study (only 35 participants), it provides valuable insight into decision-making processes. For the study, participants were shown pictures of food. Each item was presented individually and they were asked to rate how many they wanted to eat. Next, participants were shown pictures of two foods at a time and asked to choose which one they would prefer to eat, then rate their confidence in their decision. Then they ate the foods they had chosen. The researchers used an eye scanner to observe the subjects’ eye movement patterns to determine how much thought went into each decision. They used this data, along with data from similar research, to develop a computer program.

“We found that people are particularly likely to have a bad feeling about a decision if they introspect that they haven’t paid enough attention to comparing the different options,” says Rafael Polanía, teacher at ETH Zürich, ETH and responsible for the study. But, he says, we can train ourselves to be more introspective through practices like mindfulness exercises and meditation.

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About Shirley A. Tamayo

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