The Loh Down On Science

Hold Your Horses

Quick!  Do you make good snap decisions?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:

What?  Well?  No – most of us don't, especially if we're distracted with this . . . New tweet!  Cool. 

The good news?  Scientists at Columbia University say we can improve our snap decisions. 

They showed test subjects two sets of moving dots on a computer screen.  One set of dots was the target set, which the subjects needed to track visually.  The other set was a distraction.  The point of the task?  To identify which direction the target dots moved, while ignoring the distractors.  In one round subjects had to aim for speed; in the other round, they had to aim for accuracy.

The results?  When people focused on accuracy, they tended to delay their decisions by milliseconds.  But, oddly, they were more accurate and responded faster than when they focused on speed!  Meaning that waiting slightly before deciding helps the brain filter out misleading information and make a better decision.

So, next time you're faced with a high-stakes choice, pause before you make the leap.  Or at least put that phone down!

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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