60-Second Mind

Making a Decision? Take Your Time

A recent study shows that when faced with a decision, it's best to take some time--relax and cool off--so logical thinking can guide us to the best choice. Christie Nicholson reports

[Musical introduction.]

Ah to sleep on it, the classic delay tactic. Recent research out of Maastricht University School of Business and Economics shows that indeed delaying a choice, in general, can help us make better decisions. 

Researchers presented subjects with an ultimatum game, where player A offers a portion of 10 dollars to player B. If B accepts the offer, both parties get the suggested amounts. And if B refuses, both parties receive nothing. Low offers (say two dollars) are almost always rejected, even though one dollar is better than none.

They paired up 168 subjects and found that responders who made a decision immediately after receiving a one-dollar offer always rejected it. But acceptances skyrocketed to 75 percent for those players who took 10 minutes to fill out a questionnaire after receiving the lowball offer.

Brain imaging studies show that low offers activate the anterior insula, an area associated with feelings of disgust or anger. So the authors note that the delay allows us to chill out and accept the most logical and best option even if we're dealing with cheapskate partner.

—Christie Nicholson

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