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Decision Fatigue [Aug. 22nd, 2011|11:00 pm]
So here's a really interesting article in the NY Times Magazine on "Decision Fatigue". I strongly recommend it.

The thing I find fascinating is the idea that when I say something like "I've run out of cope", it's not just a metaphor. There's some reality behind that.

And I think it's important to recognize the willpower tax of living under stress. I think we find it really hard to acknowledge just how contextual our decisions really are. We have this mythology of the self that says that people make choices as an expression of their inner nature, that good decisions come from moral fiber and inherent goodness, while bad decisions come from weakness and innate unworthiness, when in fact it's much much fuzzier than that. We say "oh, I would never make that choice," but in fact, in their shoes? You might. And that's scary, so instead of responding with compassion, we cast judgment as a way of distancing ourselves from the frightening reality that we don't have nearly as much control over our lives as we believe.

Also interesting is the point that people who manage decision fatigue well often do so not by having greater reserves of willpower, but by structuring their lives so they don't have to expend much of it under normal circumstances.

I think you could use that as a metric of civilization: the more a culture structures its context to allow its members to be the best they can, the better a civilization it is...

[User Picture]From: nehrlich
2011-08-23 05:22 am (UTC)
Yeah, I really liked that article. The idea that I should save up my decision-making power for important decisions means that I should let other decisions go (what Schwartz of the Paradox of Choice calls satisficing - take the first reasonable choice rather than optimize for the best possible choice).

I also like the idea of structuring life to only have to make a single hard decision - save the willpower to buy healthy groceries so that when I'm home I don't have to exert willpower to eat healthy, etc.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2011-08-23 11:07 am (UTC)
So I read an article related to this on poverty some months ago. I think I posted about it. I'll have to see if I can find it.

The interesting philosophical connection that this article does not explore, is the conflation of 'choice' with 'freedom.' In the consumer sphere it's things like choosing options on you shoes, making them 'customizable.' I've always suspected that while people enjoy the novelty, they don't actually want the options. That a limited spectrum offers more opportunities for sell...

But more importantly, there's the question if we're always deciding what toilet paper to buy (and the green movement has made shopping very difficult) we won't make good decisions in other spheres of our lives... not just on the sugary snack, spectrum, but how we treat our fellow human.

The example with the judge insinuates the weight of moral decision and how it's impacted by fatique, but this article doesn't take it very far.

I suspect much of this is why I dislike shopping. And i am guilty of not choosing --- or limiting the sphere of choice --- in order to cope. I'm only beginning to meet some of the negative long term consequences... guess I'll go eat a candybar. ;)
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From: detailbear
2011-08-23 05:30 pm (UTC)
I have both diabetes and cholesterol problems. I have tended to take one or two item a week and do the research. So I'll stand at the margarine cooler and compare all of the nutrition numbers, quickly tossing out the high saturated fats, and then compare all the numbers (including price) on the few that are left, and the chosen one becomes my default. Or I'll compare all the paper towel for post-consumer fibre, etc. and then choose what appears to be the best. I also write down my second and third choices on my grocery list, in case the number one choice doesn't taste or feel right.

If something new comes on the market, I only have to compare it to the default. By the end of a year, I had improved all the most used foods in my house, without feeling overwhelmed or deprived.
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[User Picture]From: epinoid
2011-08-23 12:04 pm (UTC)
Interesting article - you might enjoy the books by the behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, and the neuroscientist, David Eagleman.

The article brought a rush of memories for me in addition to things to ponder. Dr. Baumeister was a brand new professor at CWRU and organized the experimental subject pool when I was an undergrad. Students in introductory psychology classes had a requirement to participate in a number of experiments. I never took his class in social psych (wish I did) but remember a very gangly prof who barely looked older than the students. Finding his faculty page he filled out and aged rather well. I am glad to see that he is doing cool things!
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[User Picture]From: annlarimer
2011-08-23 02:41 pm (UTC)
I didn't know there was a real word for this. I've always thought of it as The Fuck-It Event Horizon, or the point where you say, "Oh, just shred them all."

Sometimes at the end of the day I sit here and think, should I go get a Diet Coke and read at Arby's before the bus comes? Or Amigo's? And by the time the bus comes I'm still sitting here and just go home instead. In my defense, Arby's and Amigo's are both horrible.
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[User Picture]From: bluebear2
2011-08-23 04:07 pm (UTC)
Don't go for the diet Coke or you won't have glucose levels for you brain. Get the regular Coke.
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[User Picture]From: annlarimer
2011-08-23 04:16 pm (UTC)
Ick no. It tastes horrible, it's far too sweet, and it makes my teeth fuzzy. It makes me go, "Hhhhhhhhhhhkch!" when I drink it by accident.
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From: detailbear
2011-08-23 05:13 pm (UTC)
Juice or milk then?
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[User Picture]From: annlarimer
2011-08-23 05:39 pm (UTC)
Later. That is not juice or milk time. THAT IS NOT THE TIME FOR JUICE OR MILK. Also, restaurant milk comes in puny servings that make my diamond-hard skeletal system scoff in derision. "Do you call that milk?" it says. "That would not properly calcify a mouse." "It would," I say. "In fact you could drown a mouse in it." Then my skeletal system starts explaining hyperbole in a really patronising tone, and that's about the point where the manager asks me to leave.
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[User Picture]From: kev_bot
2011-08-23 09:02 pm (UTC)
This is enlightening. I believe it applies to me. But I have too much work to do between jobs to figure out how.
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[User Picture]From: backrubbear
2011-08-24 12:47 am (UTC)
And as I mentioned over elsewhere, this let's you perform a certain form of mind control - or at least social manipulation. Think of a given person who you may like but has a tendency to react to things they don't like to hear by throwing at you a barrage of what if/why not questions. Each of these is a form of decision making that is exhausting some of your mental reserves. Eventually, you may give in.

Brow-beating, in other words, is actually an effective attack. :-P
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[User Picture]From: tdjohnsn
2011-08-24 02:59 am (UTC)
How funny. I just ordered "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength" by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney based on a post about that article that I read elsewhere.

I know I try to have systems for everything so I don't have to think about everything I do (things like "where do the car keys go", and "what happens to the mail"
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