Monday, August 29, 2011

Decision Fatigue

Apparently exercising your will-power also depletes it. The research has implications for many aspects of daily life, from maintaining will-power in dieting and shopping, to arbitrary decisions from parole officers. Of great interest to me are the implications for educations. When final exams are scheduled back-to-back for example, students inevitably do worse on the second exam. Students become mentally fatigued of multiple-choice tests, they may be getting hungry, glucose-levels can be low in the brain. The long-term effects of their choices become less important to the more instantly gratifying choices of taking a break, eating, or having fun. I have observed this in students who have had to make-up tests after-school. They rush through the test, and when unsure of an answer they leave it blank or take a random guess, rather than applying themselves and taking their time as they would have if they had taken the test in the morning.

The research also suggests that decision-making fatigue is more taxing on the poor, who are burdened by more trade-off decisions in shopping than they wealthy. On a tighter budget each item has to be more carefully considered in terms of price. Ironically the toll of decision-fatigue is more impulsive and poorer decisions, such as grabbing that candy bar at the check-out counter.

How to prevent decision-fatigue? Some quick tricks:
- Steady supply of glucose throughout the day. (Protein and complex carbohydrates.)
- Taking breaks and snacks during long and decision taxing exercises.
- Ample sleep.
- Avoid late-in-the-day decisions.
- Structure your day so as to avoid taxing the ego. For example having a schedule to exercise or study with a friend so that it doesn't become a daily decision of will-power to work-out or study, but just a routine you follow.

Useful article! Something our society needs to look at more!

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