My friends know me as a very impatient person. Basically, I don't like to waste time. Especially if the outside temperature is minus twenty-something. If someone can't make up their mind, I'm usually the one who points into one direction, thinking, any decision is better than no decision.
Last weekend, I was pretty braindead. I was so braindead I looked up the smiley for 'braindead'. Here it is:
Then I made the Jung Typology test, recalling that a seat neighbor on a long distance flight urged me to, after he realized I wouldn't entertain him. I shouldn't have taken the test. The outcome was:
Your Type is INTJ
Strength of the preferences in %:
- Introverted 100, Intuitive 75, Thinking 12, Judging 44.
The only reason why I'm writing this in my stupid BLOG is to show that I'm working on the 'Introverted' score *gnurg*.
Here is the INTJ profile. In case you belong to my ex-boyfriends you'll find yourself nodding and grinning. 'INTJs know what they know, and perhaps still more importantly, they know what they don't know.' A-ha. So-so. Well, currently I don't know what I meant to say. Oh yes, I meant to write something about decision making.
Today, I read at the SciAm blog Big Decision: Head or Gut? Hmm ... by Alex Haslam about the Science article
On Making the Right Choice: The Deliberation-Without-Attention Effect
Ap Dijksterhuis, Maarten W. Bos, Loran F. Nordgren, Rick B. van Baaren
Science 17 February 2006, Vol. 311. no. 5763, pp. 1005 - 1007
In this article, the researchers examined the decisions of participants to pick purchasable items (cars, furniture) after being confronted with information of varying complexity. They made a distinction between conscious and unconscious thinkers, the latter simulated by distracting the participants and then asking them to make up their mind. They found (guess what) that more complex information makes decisions more complicated.
But more importantly, they also found that when the situation got more complex, the unconscious thinkers did better in choosing the best car. Reading the paper, it remains unclear to me in how far it was common sensus what they actually meant with 'best car'.
In further studies they rated the choice by 'postchoice satisfaction' with unspecified 'products'. What they found was that in not very complex situations, conscious thought works best, but 'the more people thought consciously about complex products, the less satisfied they were with their purchase'. Folks, I wonder if they asked the people again after their Walmart shelf fell apart. If you ask me, the only thing their research shows it that longer thinking raises your expectations, and you are more likely to be critical about your own choice, which in turn lowers 'postchoice satisfaction'.
Already the abstract of the Science article says, maybe deliberately provocative: 'choices in complex matters [...] should be left to unconscious thought', and they end with stating
'There is no reason to assume that the deliberation-without-attention effect does not generalize to other types of choices -- political, managerial, or otherwise. In such cases, it should benefit the individual to think consciously about simple matters and to delegate thinking about more complex matters to the unconscious.'
I totally agree with Alex Haslam that contrary to what the researchers write, this conclusion can not be applied to situations where the notion of a 'satisfactory outcome' or 'best choice' is not as immediately apparent as in choosing a color for your car. As the worst of all possible consequences, he has this scary quotation by a well known world leader, from June 1, 2003, after having invaded Iraq:
G.W.Bush: "I'm not very analytical. You know, I don't think a lot about why I do things."
Well. He definitely didn't think about whether this was a smart thing to say. Here's politics for beginners: The whole idea of representative democracy is the election of politicians that make the complex decisions based on their expertise. In a time where matters are as involved as today, we citizens just can't take care of every political decisions on our own, but we rely on those who we elect to do their best. That's what politicians get paid for. If I want 'to delegate thinking about more complex matters' - say, like social security, research funding, or invading foreign countries - 'to the unconscious' I can do that myself. Trust me, I'm INTJ, I possess the unusual trait combination of imagination and reliability, and I can reliably imagine things getting even worse if Science articles encourage stupidity.
It seems to me though in their final statement the researches might not have referred to the politicians themselves, but to those who make their X on election day. I seriously hope for the future of your country - whichever it is - that you don't leave your precious civil right to your easy to manipulate unconsciousness. What if the candidate's photo reminds you of your 8th grade teacher who once sneezed a giant booger on your notebook?
In this regard, it is especially interesting that it has been shown (see e.g. Fatal Attraction. The Effects of Mortality Salience on Evaluations of Charismatic, Task-Oriented, and Relationship-Oriented Leaders, Cohen et al, Psychological Science, Vol. 15 Issue 12 Page p. 846–851, 2004) that 'psychological terror', that is, thoughts about death and our own mortality, strongly influence our political opinions. Overall, thoughts of death let us tend to the politically conservative side.
The recent issue of Psychology Today has an article on that matter (The Ideological Animal, by Jay Dixit) which features one of the authors of the above findings, Sheldon Salomon. In this article they don't explicitly talk about conscious and unconscious decisions, but I guess you can easily see the connections:
[...] is there any way we can overcome our easily manipulated fears and become the informed and rational thinkers democracy demands?
To test this, Solomon and his colleagues prompted two groups to think about death and then give opinions about a pro-American author and an anti-American one. As expected, the group that thought about death was more pro-American than the other. But the second time, one group was asked to make gut-level decisions about the two authors, while the other group was asked to consider carefully and be as rational as possible. The results were astonishing. In the rational group, the effects of mortality salience were entirely eliminated. Asking people to be rational was enough to neutralize the effects of reminders of death [...].
"People have two modes of thought," concludes Solomon. "There's the intuitive gut-level mode, which is what most of us are in most of the time. And then there's a rational analytic mode, which takes effort and attention."
The solution, then, is remarkably simple. The effects of psychological terror on political decision making can be eliminated just by asking people to think rationally. Simply reminding us to use our heads, it turns out, can be enough to make us do it.
So, I ask you kindly, if it comes to politics, think rationally.
To summarize: unconscious politics is just plain Bu**sh**.
Now I'm going to work on the 'Thinking' score.