Thursday, April 21, 2011

Decision-making is mentally taxing

Probably no surprise to any of you reading this post: but guess what? Decision-making is mentally taxing. The Economist reported on a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where rulings by a judge in an Israeli courtroom depend partly on when the judge last had a snack or a break. "In this study the plaintiffs were asking either to be allowed out on parole or to have the conditions of their incarceration changed. The researchers found that, at the start of the day, the judges granted around two-thirds of the applications before them. As the hours passed, that number fell sharply, eventually reaching zero. But clemency returned after each of two daily breaks, during which the judges retired for food. The approval rate shot back up to near its original value, before falling again as the day wore on. The researchers offer two hypotheses for this rise in grumpiness. One is that blood-sugar level is the crucial variable. This, though, predicts that the precise amount of time since the judge last ate will be what matters. In fact, it is the number of cases he has heard since his last break, not the number of hours he has been sitting, which best matches the data. That is consistent with a second theory, familiar from other studies, that decision making is mentally taxing and that, if forced to keep deciding things, people get tired and start looking for easy answers. In this case, the easy answer is to maintain the status quo by denying the prisoner’s request."

While there are many ethical and judicious meanings and ramifications to this story, I bring it up because it resonated with me in relation to becoming healthier. We make decisions every day about the foods that we eat including when we are fatigued or hungry. Before I started on my getting healthy quest, I would grab just about anything to eat when I came out of a long stretch of the professional work that I do. I am guessing my blood sugar was low, too, plus I know I was mentally fatigued, thus easy to come by snacks were a fix. But, not any more. Although I have not kicked the habit of working long hours I am WAY better at having healthy snacks that I can grab, mindlessly at times, and all around 100 calories. I am guessing that your own habits have changed too. Right??

I also want to report that it was a good week in terms of exercise. I am not all the way back to my pre-bronchitis exercise regime, but I did get in over 20 miles on the bike this week (and it is only Thursday!) and about 10 miles of walking.

Have a great weekend! michele

11 comments:

  1. This is a most interesting study. It certainly makes one stop and think about the fairness of judicial decisions, especially when such decisions greatly impact a person's life.

    Glad to hear your exercise routine is nearly normal. I just got started again this week, as well, after a long bout with influenza A. That really zapped me, and I felt fatigued and ill for longer than I would ever care to repeat. I'm glad that things are getting back to normal for you. Have a great Friday and a restful weekend!

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  2. Thinking takes lots of energy, sometimes more so then the physical kind. Try to find time to relax a bit Michele.
    Good job on the exercise. You are such a beautiful woman.
    Take care and God Bless!!

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  3. That's very interesting. I just umpired my 8 year old's games, which tends to be subjective based on if the pitcher needs a little "leniency"! Good thing for them I had dinner before the game. ;-)

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  4. Yesterday was my first day on my new job and it was a whirlwind. I didn't have time to eat and I met with clients who are facing real tough things. When I came home I just wanted to eat, eat, eat. Luckily I didn't have anything bad in the house. I had a sensible dinner and then just told myself, "go to bed." So I did. ;) Next time I am out with clients I will bring food to snack throughout the day... nuts, fruit, cheese sticks.... something like that. Thanks for the post!! I will be biking more and more too! Great job getting your exercise in. :) Happy, healthy thoughts to ya!!

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  5. Glad you are getting back to it:) I still have not gotten on my bike yet! First hubby was caught up in taxes and now the weather is not cooperating.

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  6. Hi Michele, I hope your mind gives your body a chance to relax soon!!! Great job on the exercise! Take care of yourself!

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  7. Wow - insightful!
    Hospice is almost always 12 hours.... plus driving....
    yikes I am starting to wish for shorter days!

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  8. Very interesting study. I can see myself reflected in that as I raise my children. If it's a chaotic, intense day (or moment), I'm less lenient.

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  9. Yikes, I hope I never need the information, but just in case I am ever in front of a judge I am going to ask for a slot early in the day. :-) Glad to hear your snacking is getting easier. I just posted that I still struggle with the mindless munchies!

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  10. Great study. Just goes to show how important it is to take care of ourselves by getting the proper rest, nutrition and water! Our bodies and mind need us to make the right decisions every day!

    Thanks for the info and great job on your exercise. You are doing great!!

    Keep it up and stay focused!!

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  11. Hi Michelle, nice to meet you. thanks for stopping by my blog today and for the nice comment. I am so inspired by reading about all the miles you have completed. that is so inspiring for me. That picture of the falls is absolutely breath taking. have a great day. keep up the great work you are doing. hugs.

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