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Think hard for a while, and then fall asleep to make a good decision

Long and careful deliberation can be ineffectual, because the conscious mind has a very limited processing capacity. “People who mull over their decisions typically get the relative importance of the various pros and cons very wrong.” Research reported in the Harvard Bus.Rev., Vol. 85, Feb. 2007 at 30, discloses that extensive unconscious thought, after a period of focus, can make intuition more reliable than other ways to decide.

Studies conducted by a professor of psychology in the Netherlands show the superiority of immersing yourself for a period of time and then letting your cerebral processes on their own chew over the material. That approach is better than making a choice immediately or thinking diligently about the decision and then taking it. When people let their unconscious ponder, “Their decisions were better from a normative perspective (more rationally justifiable), from a subjective perspective (more likely to produce post-choice satisfaction), and from an objective perspective (more accurate).” So, lawyers should cogitate a while, then sleep on it.

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One response to “Think hard for a while, and then fall asleep to make a good decision”

  1. Ron says:

    An interesting book relative to this point is “The Psychology of Invention in the Field of Mathematics.” It is a short review of the observations of mathemeticians on how they arrive at solutions to mathematical problems for which no previous solution was known. Many of them report the same general pattern: a period of intense study and loading of information, leading to a dead end or no clear answer; setting aside or abandoning the problem; and then, after a period of inactivity, a flash of insight where a novel solution becomes apparent, sometimes fully formed. The observations suggest an ability to resolve information and generate models that is outside of our conscious awareness and perhaps less burdened by theory or expectation, as addressed in one of your later posts. How to harness this in a business environment is another issue.