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Complex Decision Making: There’s Truth in the Idea of ‘Sleeping On It’

There is now scientific reasoning behind the idea that you should take your time to make a decision; you really should “sleep on it” if you’re trying to make a particularly important and complex decision. The Harvard Business Review explores Maarten Bos’ recent findings that have been published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Bos …

There is now scientific reasoning behind the idea that you should take your time to make a decision; you really should “sleep on it” if you’re trying to make a particularly important and complex decision. The Harvard Business Review explores Maarten Bos’ recent findings that have been published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Bos completed an experiment in which he and his co-authors gave participants information about cars; some cars “possessed many positive but irrelevant attributes”, whereas others “possessed fewer positive but important attributes.”

Participants in the study had to use different decision making techniques. Some made immediate decisions, while others completed a distracting task before deciding. Those who made immediate decisions chose the cars with many irrelevant attributes, while those who completed a distracting task before making their decision chose the cars with few, but important attributes.

The mind actually helped the participants make the right decision; the distracted brain (sleeping counts) actively weighs the positives and negatives of a decision. There is real value in sleeping on your decisions.

HBR offers three ways to approach making decisions that take all perspectives into account:

  1. Take in all information
  2. Sleep on it
  3. Check the facts

So, even if don’t have the time to ‘sleep on it’, take your time before making a decision. Complete another task and come back to it, your brain is working with you to make the right judgment call.

Read: A Counter-Intuitive Approach to Making Complex Decisions

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