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Not A Good Decision Maker? You Will Know How To Be One After Reading This.

Not A Good Decision Maker? You Will Know How To Be One After Reading This.

We’ve been told that making good decisions is all about standing our ground. It’s about being strong and deliberate. It’s about being sure of ourselves. What if we’re wrong? What if a good decision requires just the opposite? What if we need to become more open-minded?

In 1995, Psychologist Jonathan Baron coined the term “actively open-minded thinking.” According to Baron, the primary purpose of deliberate thought is to form beliefs and make decisions based on those beliefs. Actively open-minded thinking is the process of consciously considering a wide array of options when forming those beliefs and making those decisions.

It sounds nice in theory, but does actively open-minded thinking actually help you make better decisions? Wouldn’t it, instead, make you more uncertain? Won’t considering too many options cause to flounder in doubt and become indecisive? Well, to answer these questions, I’ll first consider the opposite of actively open-minded thinking. Let’s call it “actively close-minded thinking.”

The Perils of a Closed Mind

In a recent experiment, researchers from the Yale Cultural Cognition Project sought to understand how political ideologies influence our ability to make accurate judgments. To do so, they split a thousand participants into four equally sized groups, each containing more or less the same amount of liberal democrats and conservative republicans. Each group was asked to look at a chart and perform a basic mathematical calculation in order to draw a conclusion about the data.

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The first two groups were attempting to understand whether a new skin cream had caused subjects in trials to get worse or to get better. To do so, they had to calculate the ratio of the subjects who had taken the cream and gotten better to those who hadn’t taken the cream and still got better (control group), to the ratio of those who had taken the cream and got worse to those who hadn’t taken the cream and still got worse (control group).

For one of these groups, the data was presented favorably for the cream. For the other, the data was presented unfavorably for the cream. Though neither group demonstrated excellent quantitative abilities, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans scored equally well in each of these groups. But what if the topic was a little more politically charged? What if the issue wasn’t about skin cream? What if, instead, it was about Gun control?

For the second two groups, the researchers kept the data exactly the same, but they changed “the introduction of a skin cream” to “the introduction of a gun ban.” Then, they asked the subjects to calculate whether the gun ban led to an increase or a decrease in crime. How do you think these results came out?

Both not surprisingly and downright shockingly, the politically—charged context dramatically changed how participants answered the question—even though it was the same basic math problem. In the group with results favorable to the gun ban, conservative republicans were far more likely to get the question wrong. In the group with results unfavorable to the gun ban, liberal democrats were far more likely to get the question wrong.

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Why, in the second experiment were people more likely to make poor judgments? Because they already had their minds made up on the issue. They didn’t need to think it through, because they already knew the right answer. Or, so they thought.

It turns out that being certain doesn’t help you make better decisions; it just helps you make faster decisions.

The Profits of an Open Mind

Now, back to “actively open-minded thinking.” In a separate experiment, published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, a team of researchers sought to put actively open-minded thinking to the test. The researchers first administered a standard test, measuring how prone the participants were to thinking open-mindedly. Then, they tested how well the participants could predict the outcome of a football game from a previous season (not known by the participants) in the National Football League.

On a screen, each participant was shown a home team and an away team. At the bottom of the screen, they were given two options. They could 1) ask for information or 2) make an estimate. If they requested information, they were given clues such as the teams’ win-loss records. The participants were permitted to request up to 10 pieces of information before making an estimate.

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After all the participants had made predictions on ten different games, the results were tabulated. As you might expect, the people who opted to gather more information were much more likely to make accurate predictions than those who guessed right away.

And what about that “open-mindedness” test? Yes, it turns out that those who sought out more information were also those who scored highly on the test. The takeaway: being open-minded causes you to seek out more information. And, seeking out more information causes you to make better decisions.

A Posture of Curiosity

There’s another less academic word for “actively open-minded thinking” that we use much more often in our everyday conversations. That word is “curiosity.” Everyday, we’ll encounter major decisions that will impact us for the rest of our lives. We’ll have to decide whether or not to marry our significant other. We’ll have to decide whether or not to accept a job offer. We’ll have to decide whether or not to go to graduate school. Approaching such situations with a posture of curiosity will almost always help us make better decisions.

When making these major life decisions, the closed mind will focus only on one variable. Does my mother/father approve? Is it a high enough salary? Will the degree get me a better job? The curious mind seeks out more information. What do her/his parents think? Twenty years from now, will it matter what my parents think? Is salary the only thing I should be concerned with? Will I get along with the people that currently work there? Do I just want to go to school to get a better job? Aren’t I also interested in learning more about my field and becoming a more well-rounded person?

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When you’re curious, you ask these questions. When you ask questions, you get answers. And when you get answers, you make better decisions.

The idea that the person who makes quick, forceful decisions without any doubt is somehow making better decisions—that’s a myth. As psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons point out in The Invisible Gorilla, those who are most confident in their decision-making abilities are often those who are least competent in their decision-making abilities.

If you want to make better decisions, doubt your intuitions. Test your assumptions. Seek a wider range of possibilities.

Become curious.

Featured photo credit: Pretty young woman making a decision with arrows and question mark above her head via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on October 6, 2020

9 Steps to Disconnect from Social Media and Connect With Life Again

9 Steps to Disconnect from Social Media and Connect With Life Again

The world has never been more connected. No matter where in the world you are, you can send a message to anyone in another part of the world as long as you both have internet connection. In fact, Aussies living in the Outback will soon have access to the internet comparable to their city-dwelling counterparts. The internet not only breaks distance barriers, but also social barriers. A regular person, like you or me, can now tweet our favorite authors, athletes, and other famous personalities! Sometimes, they even respond.

But sometimes, you may get lost in your online life that you forget to live your real life. You may focus on being more connected only to end up being disconnected with the real world. How is social media ruining your life? Watch this video to find out:

Sometimes, you need to take a step back, disconnect from social media and connect with life once again. Here are nine ways you do so:

1. Eliminate Gadgets for One Hour Before Sleep and After Wake Up

You should spend the first hour of your day setting your own plans and agenda. You should be proactive in setting the direction of your day, not reactive. This way, you can determine how you want your whole day to go, not simply reacting to how other people want you to spend your day. During the first hour of your day, you can pray, meditate, connect with yourself, set your to-dos, and set your goals.

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You should also spend the last hour of your day preparing to rest–your body and your mind. If you check your social media profile before going to bed, your mind will not get the rest it deserves as you will fill your mind with your friends’ updates on their news feeds, which do not necessarily make your life any better in any way or give you rest.

2. Turn Off All Your Push Notifications

It does not only save your battery life, it also saves you from a lot of distractions. Turn off all your push notifications from email, chat, and social media applications. In case of really urgent matters, people will give you a call.

Success is about momentum. How can you gain momentum when notifications keep distracting you?

3. Keep your phone in a drawer while you’re working.

Sometimes, merely seeing your phone can distract you whether or not your notifications have been turned off. So, why not take the extra mile and completely hide it away from your sight given you can still hear urgent phone calls?

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Again, it’s all about building momentum.

4. Use Only One Device for Checking Social Media

Facebook on your desktop, on your laptop, on your smartphone, and, now, even on your Apple Watch? That’s great! For Facebook that is. But, not for your focus and productivity. The more devices you have that can log in to your social media profiles, the more distractions you have to avoid.

Of course, you still have to be connected online. But, use only one device to do so. This will help you condition your mind (and discipline yourself) that your gadgets are your tools for doing more important things than aimlessly scrolling down your news feed.

5. Give Yourself 30 Minutes to Stay Connected

Yes, you still have to log in! Being connected through social media is really a must in this technology-driven world. But, set a time limit for it. Otherwise, you will only waste hours each day. Give yourself thirty minutes (an hour at most) each day to respond to text messages, check notifications, accept friend requests, and respond to comments. I know you still want to. Unless, of course, you’re a social media manager. That’s a different story.

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In case you cannot discipline yourself to stop logging in to social media, you can use browser extensions like StayFocusd for Google Chrome to limit the time you spend on them.

6. Allot One Hour of Your Day to Respond to Emails

In this increasingly online world, email still remains the most personal way of online communication. This is where the most important engagements still happen online. Other social media like Friendster and Multiply have come and gone, but email still remains. That’s why you can spend another hour each day checking and responding to your emails.

7. Subscribe to Your Favorite Websites via RSS or Email

Most of us rely on social media as well to get updates on our favorite blogs and website. But, social media are full of distractions. Instead, be proactive in getting updates as well. Subscribe via RSS or email to make sure that the only updates you receive are the updates you really want to receive.

Don’t have an RSS reader? Try Feedly. Using RSS readers may be a bit confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it will save you from a lot of distractions. But, it can also get addicting. So schedule catching up on your RSS reader as well!

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8. Use Third Party Applications to Post on Social Media

In case you really need to post updates, use third party applications such as Hootsuite and Buffer. That way, you can avoid logging in to your social media accounts and getting distracted by your news feed and notifications. Because once you’ve logged in, it’s difficult to log out! You don’t fight temptation, you avoid it!

9. Live a Real Life

Most importantly, live a real life, interact with real people, and be awesome in the real world! Don’t stress yourself making your profile wonderful. Live an awesome life and it will automatically follow!

Do exciting stuff. Write a book. Plan a trip. Whatever. Just be awesome!

Most importantly, live a life that matters and you don’t have to get your satisfaction and fulfillment from likes and shares ever again!

How About You?

What do you do to disconnect from social media and connect with your life once again?

Featured photo credit: Singularity University NL: Man versus Machine – Biology versus Technology by Sebastiaan ter Burg via imcreator.com

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