Entries in Decisions (2)


Reduce Dumb Decisions by Thinking in a Foreign Language

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- People who think problems through in a foreign language -- and it doesn’t matter which one -- make more rational decisions and are more apt to take smart risks, especially in the financial realm, according to a recent study in the journal Psychological Science.

Left to follow their gut instincts, people are naturally loss-averse, sometimes myopically so, and often pass up favorable opportunities as a result, says Boaz Keysar, a psychologist at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study.

“Imagine I offer you $100, or we flip a coin and if it’s heads, you get $200, and if it’s tails, you get nothing,” Keysar says.  “Most people would say, ‘I’ll take the $100 and not risk getting nothing.  Ninety-nine percent of people would do that, even if I offer $2,200 or nothing.  We have an emotional reaction to a definite, immediate gain.”

But consider the proposal in Korean, French, Spanish, Japanese -- any non-native tongue -- and the aversion to losses diminishes, and our willingness to take risks changes, Keysar and his research team found.

“A foreign language is less emotionally connected than our native tongue, and distances you,” says Keysar, who, even after 25 years in the United States, says he still “operates differently” in English than in his native Hebrew.

“A non-native language takes you away cognitively and slows you down, especially if you’re not that skilled in it,” he says.

As counterintuitive as that seems, it’s a nice boost for the language slackers.

“The less proficient you are in a second language, the more you’ll deliberate over decisions,” Keysar says, “and your choices benefit from such deliberation.  It’s like you become somewhat of a different person.”

In one of six experiments to gauge just how different, Keysar and colleagues enlisted 54 University of Chicago students who were native English speakers but had been studying Spanish.  They gave each student $15 in $1 bills to make 15 separate bets in a coin toss.  In each toss, they could either pass up the bet and keep the dollar, or risk losing it for the possibility of getting an extra $1.50 if they won the toss, or nothing if they lost. 

These were advantageous bets, Keysar explains, as statistically, the students stood to come out ahead if they took all 15 bets.

While the students who considered the wager in Spanish took the bet 71 percent of the time, those who thought it through in English were willing to wager only 54 percent of the time.

“Bear in mind that we gave them the $15.  It’s not as if it was even their own money,” Keysar says.  “But in the foreign language, they were not as motivated by fear.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Year, New You: Improve Your Decision-Making Skills

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- John F. Kennedy once said, "Change is the law of life."

Fast forward to today, when the law of life is in full force in U.S. culture, and coming in at a rapid pace.

We are trekking through revolutionary change on every front, from technology to the economy to social issues and more. As we try to adjust to these changes, some of us are feeling challenged in areas we might least expect.

It seems as though the increase in the number of choices that lands in our laps in our everyday lives has become the challenge for many right now. Making decisions feels, for many, to be a daunting and overwhelming task.

We want to stave off stress and anxiety, so what can we do to simplify? Try these tips to improve your decision-making skills to better adapt to the multi-changing, multi-choice world we live in today.

Remember that decision making is all about the decision maker. The more you know about yourself, your wants, your needs, your faults and your limitations and expectations, the easier it is to navigate the choices that will work best for you.

Weigh and inform your decisions.
Decision making requires some sort of process, so train yourself to sift through pros and cons in your mind. You do this naturally anyway, but being conscious of it can speed up and improve the process.

Resist the temptation to imagine that we actually need all the choices available to us. We don't, so stop yourself from feeling the pressure to partake in unnecessary choice making as often as possible.

Set a time limit. When you find yourself inundated and overwhelmed in making a decision, put a time limit on it and stick to it.

Remember your simpler life as a child. Go back to your time as a kid and remember what you did when you did not have as many choices and decisions to make. Apply from that time what you can today.

Keep an eye on your doubt. You wouldn't need to make a decision if the correct choice were obvious, so remember the doubt that you feel is there to help you. Once you make your decision, remember to let the doubt go.

Our life journey is made up by the choices we make along the way. Remind yourself that in every moment of your life, you have opportunity to make the choice that can lead you to where you want to go.

When you feel paralyzed by the process, keep the words of Teddy Roosevelt in mind:

"In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio