Most of us have experienced having to make big decisions where we feel that we need to research a subject and consider carefully the options before making a choice. We often spend hours Googling the matter, looking at comparison sites and reading up on all the necessary details before spending even more time considering all the information on offer and then making the decision. After all, isn’t the only way to be sure of doing the right thing, to make sure we’ve thought carefully about every aspect? Well, maybe not!
Research suggests that the conscious mind can be overwhelmed by too much information, but that the subconscious mind can process far more and produce a better decision.
In one experiment, two groups of people were asked to make a decision about a car and were provided with comparative data on the options. After a set amount of time, one group were then asked to spend the following few minutes thinking carefully about the options and the other group were whisked away to spend that time doing puzzles which occupied their minds on something completely different.
At the end of that period each person in the group had to make their decision. When the amount of data provided was quite small (four pieces of information), the group which had had time to consider made better choices overall than those who had been distracted.
However, when the amount of data provided was increased to 12 pieces of information, the group of people who had not had time to think made consistently better decisions!
This work has since been supported by more research about decision making. It seems that the conscious mind is only best when making decisions based on just a few facts, and that the subconscious mind is best when there are many pieces of information to consider.
Ap Dijksterhuis, a professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam, who led the research, advises that the best strategy for making a decision about a subject that you have lots of information about is to gather all the information together and, after reading it through, to put the decision out of your mind for a while. When the time then comes to make the decision, follow your gut instinct.
The theory is that the subconscious brain can churn through all the information without you being aware of it and that, when you come to make the decision, the outcome of the process is noticed as that ‘gut’ feeling that you know what to do but can’t quite articulate why.
So, next time you’re sifting through a seemingly endless amount of information about your next purchase, allow yourself time out to do something completely different before making your decision – you could even sleep on it!
One way in which hypnotherapy is believed to work is that it enables positive suggestions to be made directly to the subconscious. If, as it appears, the subconscious is the real decision maker, perhaps that’s why hypnotherapy can be such a powerful tool for changing the way a person feels, thinks and behaves.
A fascinating book on the way in which people in all walks of life make snap decision is Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. It might just make you reconsider how you make decisions!