Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thin-slice That.

How quickly and for what reasons did you decide who you were going to vote for in this election... or have you decided? How quickly did you decide where you were going to college? Who you would marry? What you would name your child?

The TIME Magazine I picked up the other day has an article in it titled "What Kind of Voter Are You?" It discusses the four models of how people actually pick who to vote for, as researched by political scientists. The four methods are called Rational, Passive, Frugal, and Intuitive. The descriptions of the Rational and Intuitive methods really stood out to me.

Rational: You actively seek out as much information as possible about all candidates, consider the positives and negatives and evaluate them against your personal interests.
This strategy is also the most likely to result in an incorrect choice- picking a candidate who does not reflect your views. Researchers think that many people can't process all they learn and simply become confused.

Intuitive: You seek only enough information to reach a decision. Some call this "low-information rationality", but the process appears to be almost unconscious.
This approach seeks the best possible decision with the least effort.
You use as many shortcuts as possible. For example, you learn about a candidate endorsement from a group you support, and you assume it did the evaluating for you.

These decision making models were interesting enough when applied to political candidate decisions, but as I thought about how they applied to my and others' personal life choices my mind started racing.

So you're telling me that too much information-gathering, weighing pros and cons, seeking counsel, thinking thinking thinking can lead to a decision that was probably not the right one for you, or just confusion and no decision at all?

And you go on to explain how sometimes our best and most accurate choices are based on a much shorter, knowledgeable but also intuition-based thought process?

I think I've wondered this before... why the decisions I've wrestled with for the longest amounts of time despite increasing relevant knowledge and experience seem to find no conclusion... why when I don't necessarily have a deadline for them, I just put the "yes" or "no" or "how" & "when" off and continue to analyze and gather and never come to an end.

If you know yourself and trust your judgment, sometimes your quickest (relatively) decisions can be your best. I knew I wanted to go to Westmont and that I'd love it within a couple hours of my first visit there when I was 15. I often do better in soccer when I don't hesitate and just go, relying on skill and a quick assessment of the scene. If I wait and weigh whether or not that girl will actually be faster than me, or how exactly to place my foot as I take the corner kick... or, off the field... if I'll have enough money to spend the time in New Zealand that I dreamed about, or if I will be able to take the many necessary steps to get the job I want, or if this guy will meet my biggest needs and I can meet his...

Chances will be that I will wait too long and misstep or become confused and be guilty of inaction.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a fabulous book called "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" that talks all about this, and now I think I should reread it. He says,

"To be a successful decision-maker, we have to edit. When we thin-slice, when we recognize patterns and make snap judgements, we do this editing unconsciously...Many believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. That fundamentally undermines your ability to access the best part of your instincts. So my advice to those people would be stop thinking and introspecting so much and do a little more acting.”

Cheers to more action.


SportsFan's Daughter said...

When surfing or bicycyling, I firmly believe that "indecision is worse than the wrong decision;" meaning that being in control of what it is that you're trying to do or where you're trying to go, if even if it's not really the best option, is generally safer than panicking and freezing.

My strategy will be somewhat different in voting, but perhaps not much. I think I am definitely a "rational" voter and am already finding myself feeling overwhelmed by all of the information I have gathered, and can sense that I will be tempted to just make a decision, even if it's the wrong the decision.

Great post!

Kristine said...

Very interesting. And encouraging considering I'm pretty sure I made the Big Decision (the one where I quit school and moved to another state) intuitively. Actually, that's how I made my voting decision, too. I trust my instincts. They've never really let me down. Hooray!