In an article called “The Science of Making Decisions” in the Tech & Science section of a 2011 issue of Newsweek, author Sharon Begley asked her readers to “imagine the most mind-numbing choice in which the possibilities almost paralyzed you.” Perhaps all of us can respond with the struggle of a choice that needed to be made but we felt overwhelmed by the necessity of a choice alongside the possible consequences of making the wrong choice.
The Newsweek article introduced Angelika Dimoka, director of the Center for Neural Decision Making, Fox School of Business, Temple University. Based on her research, Dimoka suspects that a more complicated phenomenon is at work. To confirm that, she studied activity that overtaxed people’s decision-making ability. Dimoka’s research confirmed that a brain overtaxed was prone to support critical errors and bad choices.
That’s probably not a surprise.
For earlier generations, the process of making well-informed decisions involved visiting the library and conversation with those “in-the-know.” Now we have Facebook, Twitter, smart phones with apps, you name it. The deluge of facts and opinions never stops. That can be to good advantage but it can more often lead to a catastrophic failure to decide. And we all know that the failure to decide is to decide.
What can we glean from Dimoka’s research as a church?
First, we must freely admit that, although we are in touch with the Almighty, we are prone to all the vexations of the human family. We fully understand that the decisions we make can determine our presence as a witness of our faith to the world around us.
How can we protect ourselves from having our decisions warped by excess information? Dimoka would suggest that we organize ourselves as sufficers, not maximizers.
Sufficers are able to say, “enough.” Sufficers understand that there could be more to learn but they’ve garnered enough possible answers to set priorities and, as we say, “get on with it.” Excellent choices can turn on only a few criteria. Perhaps in the interest of expediency we need to “give those a whirl” rather than attempt to exhaust every possibility.
Maximizers never stop surfing, devouring information, attempting to find the very last word, and so, struggle to make a decision and move on.
Read the full Newsweek article at www.newsweek.com/science-making-decisions-68627. There is a full plate of thought there.