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Why Don't You Sleep On It? 318

thefirelane wrote to mention a New Scientist study that indicates your subconscious mind is a better decision maker than you are. From the article: "The research suggests the conscious mind should be trusted only with simple decisions, such as selecting a brand of oven glove. Sleeping on a big decision, such as buying a car or house, is more likely to produce a result people remain happy with than consciously weighing up the pros and cons of the problem, the researchers say. Thinking hard about a complex decision that rests on multiple factors appears to bamboozle the conscious mind so that people only consider a subset of information, which they weight inappropriately, resulting in an unsatisfactory choice. In contrast, the unconscious mind appears able to ponder over all the information and produce a decision that most people remain satisfied with."
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Why Don't You Sleep On It?

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  • Hrm (Score:3, Funny)

    by B3ryllium ( 571199 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:19PM (#14742729) Homepage
    I was going to post a rebuttal to this article, but I think I'll have a nap first.
  • A-ha! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shag ( 3737 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:19PM (#14742738)
    So the famous step:

    2. ???

    Should actually be

    2. Sleep

  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:20PM (#14742746) Homepage
    Is this really due to the brain "working on" problems in your sleep? Or is this because the hours after waking are when the brain is at its operational best and it is easier to process large amounts of information at that time?
    • by CatsupBoy ( 825578 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:27PM (#14742833)
      Funny thing is, I dont believe sleep was even introduced into the study. They had people work on puzzles while mulling over a decision.

      So, while your point may be valid, sleeping would actually introduce more variables into the study then did the actuall method used in the study.
      • > Funny thing is, I dont believe sleep was even introduced into the
        > study. They had people work on puzzles while mulling over a decision.

        I will need to remember this the next time I get in trouble for playing solitaire at work.

    • "Is this really due to the brain 'working on' problems in your sleep?"

      I've suffered from this problem. I would have a hard time coding a solution at work, something that really plumbed the depths of my understanding--which probably isn't too difficult a feat. Then, I'd go home and sleep. During the night, I would dream myself coding the solution--read the code, then wake up. I would then pseudocode the solution and go back to sleep. Next day, *poof* coding was a breeze.

      So, at least sometimes my mind is prov
      • I've suffered from this problem. I would have a hard time coding a solution at work, something that really plumbed the depths of my understanding--which probably isn't too difficult a feat. Then, I'd go home and sleep. During the night, I would dream myself coding the solution--read the code, then wake up. I would then pseudocode the solution and go back to sleep. Next day, *poof* coding was a breeze.

        I almost quit a job because of this. I wrote a screen-scraper application that interacted with a TN3270

      • by angst_ridden_hipster ( 23104 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:07PM (#14743751) Homepage Journal

        I've had variants of this.

        Once, many, many years ago, (for reference, I had just gotten a brand new Epson MX-80 printer for the mighty TRS-80 model I), I was working on some complex algorithm or another. I mean, in those days, a complex algorithm was pretty simple by today's standards, but didn't have much memory to work with, so you had to try to be clever.

        In any case, went to sleep around 3am, exhausted. Immediately had a dream where the solution came to me. In the dream, I wrote it, tested it, and saved the file. But then I realized in the dream that I was asleep, so saving to a dream drive wouldn't work -- when I woke up again, it would be gone. So the solution was to print it. Somehow, in dream logic, the printout was more persistent.

        The next morning, I knew I had to check the printer for something. Unfortunately, I found nothing there. I couldn't remember why I needed to check, although I felt really let down that there was no print out.

        I gradually reconstructed the dream, and even got back to the solution I had come up with. Turned out to be incorrect, but got me on the right track ...
        • Yes, In 22 years of programming I have only once (that I can recall) received the solution in a dream. I think it was 1998 and I was debugging an application level network protocol, marshalling and unmarshalling data, but something was really dragging the parser down. I worked on it for days, then one night I had a seriously vivid dream that I was the parser. I was looking out from my process to the bytes as they came and I discovered the answer in the dream as I went through the algorithm motions. Next da
    • I suspect it's got a lot more to do with your brain's tendency to "unload" at night, especially as you are going to sleep. Ever been laying in bed and had some really brilliant idea?

      I've read that your brain unwinds and spends all night processing the previous day's experiences in relation to the rest of your memories. When you wake up in the morning, your brain is at its best, AND your mind has had time to sort out what it's learned recently and make better sense of it.
    • by Da_Biz ( 267075 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:29PM (#14742845)
      Is this really due to the brain "working on" problems in your sleep? Or is this because the hours after waking are when the brain is at its operational best and it is easier to process large amounts of information at that time?

      I don't know if it's necessarily working on problems, per-se. However, during REM sleep, your brain is at a very high level of metabolic and electrical activity, and is doing things like reinforcing long term memory. It's possible that this integration process makes for better decision making.

      That said, without seeing the actual research paper, I'd have to say that the results of the study are rather specious. I'm not buying a research metric based on how people judge which "shampoo" is better.

      And, when it comes to the subconcscious, I think I'd have to vote that it would NOT be the best idea to control one's consumer experience solely in that manner. The effects of TV marketing in the USA, and 'mass-consumerism' do not contribute to better buying decisions. I believe that subconscious buying = impulse buying.

      The buying habits of Americans would benefit from change that comes from mindful consideration about what we really need, where things are made, and how we're going to afford things in the long term.
    • RTFA. It has nothing to do with sleep.
    • I think it might have something to do with the rest period giving you a chance to get away from the stress of the situation in which a decision is required, and allow you to consider the decision on your own schedule.

      It's difficult to make rational decisions about major things when you're under a time strain, or when you're in an evironment where there is pressure to make a decision. Car dealerships depend on this phenomenon.

    • No,
      In these tests, the researchers gave a complex choice, made the people do math or anagram problems, then decide. The sleeping part was just an inference, but the research concluded allowing the non-active parts of your brain to work on something was beneficial (this is what I heard on NPR, as a supplement to the article)
    • Or is this because the hours after waking are when the brain is at its operational best...

      Geez, I want your job. My hour after waking is basically, "Oh, shit, I have to go get myself in order and go to my fucking job. :(

      Unless it's the weekend, when I just don't bother waking up.

    • Is this really due to the brain "working on" problems in your sleep?

      I've actually woken up due to someone else, noise, disturbance and I'll wake in a half sleep to find my mind doing something such as solving a computer problem or even code or math.

      This has always struck me as odd because I wasn't concioussly aware of it in my dreams and it takes me a moment to realize I am awake.

      Of course I had a girlfriend tell me that one night I was talking in my sleep trying to get her to click on the start button so w
  • Boss... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:22PM (#14742756) Journal
    Honest Boss, I wasn't sleeping on the job... actually I was, but it was helping me figure out how to tackle this project. Can't argue with science!
  • Be patient. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:22PM (#14742760)
    Wait for my +5 insightful post tomorrow.
  • Sleep... sleep... sounds familiar, but can't remember he last time I had any. I remember it was good though...

    Seriously, I think it's a great discovery but for those of us who do not get the requisite amount of REM every night, I wonder if that would have an effect on these results?

  • No big surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PFI_Optix ( 936301 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:23PM (#14742777) Journal
    The conscious mind tends to miss details. We spend so much time on the big issues that we don't notice little things. The problem is that we control our thoughts a little too well...if we don't see immediate relevance in something, we drop it. Our subconscious can take everything into account.

    I'm quite fond of telling people that they think too much, or are overthinking a problem. They spend so much time fretting about how difficult the problem is that they don't actually devote any time to solving it.
    • I more often see people get caught up in the little things, whilst the big issues just keep rolling along.

      "What colour should it be?"
      "I don't bloody care, it's a bit of pipework to fix a major leak!"
      • by kbielefe ( 606566 ) * <karl.bielefeldt+slashdot @ g m a il.com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @01:35PM (#14743474)
        You just described my in-laws perfectly. They rarely go out to eat because it is too difficult to decide what to eat. They never go on vacation because it is too difficult to decide where and when. He has worked at a company he dislikes for decades because it is too difficult to decide what other company to work for. They've been trying to decide between getting a master's degree in engineering or business for so long that he could have had both by now.

        Meanwhile, they lose thousands in financial investments that were entered too hastily, and are jealous of the fun vacations and outings we do -- with less income -- while they wait for the perfect opportunity to come along. Usually, being able to ignore unimportant problems is a big asset.

    • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @01:43PM (#14743558)
      There's an old Russian maxim to the effect that "mornings are wiser than evenings". But given the Russians' reputation, I just figured it had something to do with being less full of vodka...
  • Isn't this the same thing as saying, "don't make emotional descisions"? I mean, usually your first impression is an emotional one, not necessarily logical. When you wait a while and allow yourself to consider the logical or non-emotional merits of each side of a descision, you can be emotionally more satisfied with your choice. :-)

    • Actually, from my reading of it, they are saying do make emotional decisions. That people tend to not consider all the variables (and not compare correctly the ones they do consider) when trying to think logically, so you should let your subconcious come to an emotional decision.

      Of course, it should be a subconcious emotional decision: Your first impression is a concious emotional decision, which uses the same weights and variables as your logical decision.
    • by Derlum ( 216320 )
      I would be tempted to argue the opposite, actually. The primary criteria this study considered for a "successful" decision seemed to be all emotional:

      ...people made better decisions - ones that they remained happy with...

      Isn't it possible that your unconscious mind is so much more in-tune with your primitive and emotional id that it's better able to determine what decision will make you "happy" over the long term? People make job or purchasing decisions every day that may not be the best for their career
    • The way I read it, they're saying two things: first, that we background-process a lot more we're aware of, and second, that the decisions we come to after an extended background-processing session are the ones that we're the most comfortable with. Whether they're correct or not, and the actual modalities of the chain of thoughts that brought us to that decision are extraneous factors.
  • I am gonna install a cot in my cubical now! "But I *was* working on the new database architecture."
  • That's why I like to sleep to 2pm and then work till midnight. I really feel much more productive that way.
  • When I was a math grad working on my thesis, I often worked hard into the night on some tricky problem. Next morning when I woke up I would just lie in bed mulling it over.

    Remarkably often the solution to the problem, or at least a fresh approach for tackling it, would occur to me after only a few minutes.

    This after hours of getting no where the night before. Not that the work was wasted - it was probably a necessary precursor.

    Sleep definitely reorders your brain.

  • by Dread_ed ( 260158 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:29PM (#14742850) Homepage
    "In contrast, the unconscious mind appears able to ponder over all the information and produce a decision that most people remain satisfied with."

    Ya, riiiight.

    Acutally all you are doing is giving the subliminal programming messages more time to take effect on your mind. Once the unconscious takeover is complete the "sheep" no longer complain.
  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:31PM (#14742863) Journal

    This fits in nicely with another finding that seems amazing when you first hear about it, but is obviously true:

    People spend more conscious thinking time on a choice when it doesn't really matter.

    Hard to believe, right? You'd think we would think long and hard about things that matter (in the sense that one or the other of the choices will be far better or worse than the other) and not waste time on choices where the outcome is pretty much the same regardless of what we decided. But that's not, in fact, how we operate.

    If you give people a choice between, say, being paid a dollar or getting hit with a stick, they make up their minds much quicker than if (to choose an example at the other end of the spectrum) you let them pick a candy out of a box of identical chocolates. You can even induce the effect; people will eat potato chips out of a bag one after another without even looking at them, but if you spread the same chips out on the table and ask "which chip do you want to eat next?" so that it becomes something they have to decide they will generally slow to a crawl.


  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:31PM (#14742865) Journal
    The real conclusion is that if you give someone all the information they need to make a complex decision, then you tell them they're going to have to make a decision after you make them run through a set of distractions... They'll make the right decision.

    If they don't know they're going to have to make a choice after their distraction, their subconscious won't do anything special.

    This is just the same old story where if you have a problem, go think about something else & your subconscious will work it out for you. It's nice to see scientific proof for something that I've always considered anecdotal.

    My last thought: Some people are better at making snap decisions and some people only think they are good at it. It takes a real man to be able to admit he needs to mull things over... which is why high-pressure sales tactics often work.
    • Yeeearrrrrrrrgggh... "subconscious" is an adjective.

      Am I the only one bothered by this (nails-on-chalkboard style) every time I read it?

      You want "subconscience", or "subconscious mind"...

      • Yeeearrrrrrrrgggh... "subconscious" is an adjective.

        From reference.com [reference.com] (whoever they are):

        Not wholly conscious; partially or imperfectly conscious: subconscious perceptions.

        The part of the mind below the level of conscious perception. Often used with the.

        According to the 'dict' utility on my workstation, it WAS only an adjective as of the 1913 Webster's, but times have changed since then. A little.

  • by j_kenpo ( 571930 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:31PM (#14742870)
    I can believe this. I typically will walk away from a big decision or problem, sleep on it overnight, and by morning I usually have the answer. I never put any scientific merit into it, I just assumed it was because I wasn't being bugged by a dozen people or being pressured into a decision on the spot. But it is a practice that I use very often, especially when working on programming problems where I get stumped.

    On a side note, where are the jokes about waking up and realizing the mistake next to you?
  • A Two-fer... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vexler ( 127353 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:33PM (#14742895) Journal
    So far today, /. tells us that we shouldn't study that hard if we want to stay sane [bloomberg.com], and now this. It reminds me of that quote from "The Sea Wolf" where Wolf Larsen said of his brother Death Larsen, "He is too busy living life to think about it. My mistake was in opening the books."

    Happy Friday.

  • I think that the overall accuracy of a slept-upon decision may be also partly to do with the attenuation of some emotional factors in the decision making process- we're probably a bit less passionate about a decision like buying a car or a house when we've had some distance and a chance to sleep on it. Logic would have more of an influence in the decision making process, which should result in better decisions.

    Of course, like a lot of other posters to this thread, if you let me sleep on it, I may come back
  • More proof that Mother was right all along...
  • I recently read Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking [amazon.com] which discusses this in more detail. Basically, people with a great deal of experience in a subject develop a gut feeling that is most likely accurate and much faster than trying to analyze why they came to that conclusion. Much of this does happen at a subconscious level, whether awake or asleep.
    • I HEAR THAT!

      My wife and I takle problems completely in different ways.

      I'm more the emotional type that makes decisions without knowing WHY I made them...it just felt like the right decision.

      She is one who analyzes things to deal, but can always offer clear consise, sequential steps for solving problems.

      Interestingly enough, I'm usually the one that ends up appeasing everyone involved instead, as opposed to her method which seems to technically get the problem solved, but leaves people not so happy around he
  • Not Surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by trongey ( 21550 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:35PM (#14742919) Homepage
    I've noticed that when I'm really struggling with a decision it's usually because I intuitively feel that one choice is right, but I'm trying to figure out how to make a more attractive choice be the right one. Sleeping on it gives me a chance to let go of the emotional attachment.
  • by bogie ( 31020 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:36PM (#14742924) Journal
    "the conscious mind should be trusted only with simple decisions, such as selecting a brand of oven glove."

    Yes but just think how good a job you could do picking out the right oven glove if you slept on it? The mind boggles.
  • I agree with this wholeheartedly. Many people misunderstand or underestimate the power of the subconscious mind. Your conscious being is only a small fraction of who you really are. Just as the human brain has unmeasured amounts of unrealized potential, similarly the subconscious mind has an almost immeasurable effect on your conscious decision making.

    Lucid dreaming is one of the most concrete examples of the subconscious mind at work - people have solved waking problems such as phobias or unresolved stre

  • Interesting Research (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ChuckDivine ( 221595 ) * <charles.j.divine@gmail.com> on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:38PM (#14742938) Homepage

    I'll start with a personal story. I tend to take a long time to purchase an automobile. In 1998, for example, I decided it was time to buy a new car. The automobile I owned was 7 years old and starting to show problems. I began by doing some reading. GM gave me the opportunity to briefly test drive a number of models at one time. After doing that, I reviewed automotive literature (e.g., Car and Driver) about what was available and what the staff thought of various automobiles. I was beginning to be inclined to a moderately economical sports model. C&D said nice things about the Camaro. Months passed. I read some more. Looked at a Toyota and a Honda. They were a bit more than I wanted to spend. Finally, a local dealer was running a sale. I showed up and found out I could get an even bigger discount because my company was a nonautomotive GM subsidiary. I wound up with a new Camaro at a great price. Over the next five years my mechanic told me the car, with proper maintenance, would last 200K miles. I was a bit surprised at that. Anyway, the automobile was more than satisfactory.

    Then in 2004 I was rear ended -- badly by a truck. The car was declared a total loss. Since I hadn't even been thinking of buying a new vehicle, I was thrown for a loop. The other guy's insurance company gave me three days to get a replacement vehicle. I asked friends what to do. They advised me to buy a second hand Camaro from a reputable dealer. That's what I did. I'm still happy with the replacement. Still, though, I think I would be happier if the insurance company had given me more time to think about what I would do. I could see myself going with a new Toyota or Honda, rather than an identical vehicle. Since I wasn't given the time, though, I simply repeated my decision of five years earlier.

    People in my area (Washington, DC) are stressed out from too much to do and too little sleep. I see people making all sorts of decisions that are at best unwise, at worst destructive. Sleeping on a decision, taking the "luxury" of time, both conscious and unconscious, would, I think, improve the quality of decision making around here. Some of us do manage to do that. I can see better results by doing that rather than the mode where people are always "on." 24/7 looks like folly, not dedication.

    • The other guy's insurance company gave me three days to get a replacement vehicle. I asked friends what to do.

      Your mistake was accepting the three day limitation. I was in a similar situation. They gave me an unreasonable offer. In a calm voice, I said, "That is not reasonable. And need I remind you that YOUR client was at fault. Call me back with a reasonable offer." I hung up. 30 seconds later they called back with a reasonable offer. Insurance companies like to make all sorts of demands, if th

  • by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:39PM (#14742954)

    At least for me, this is always the way. After a certain point, there is nothing to be gained from continuing to bach away at something. Do something else; play with something; get some sleep and look at it fresh in the morning. I always like to have a couple of background projects at work for just this purpose. Some of them have actually turned out to be useful.

    Reminds me of the job offer that produced my current position. I told my boss-to-be that the offer was good and I was inclined to accept it. But on general principles I would sleep on it and make it official the next morning.

    Reminds me also of a spectral analysis simulation I did in one of my grad courses. One part of it just didn't work. The results were nonsensical, but I had a deadline, wrote it up anyway, and included a mention that the results in one section were suspect. I then did other things over the weekend, looked at it again, saw the problem immediately, reran the simulation, got good results, wrote them up and handed them in. The professor was pleased, saying that this was just what a grad student should do. I got an A in the course.


  • Screw rationality "Use the Force Luke! Let Go!"

    Seems like its not that the subconcious mind makes better decisions, but that the subconcious mind can make your life miserable if it disagrees.

  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:41PM (#14742972) Homepage Journal

    I find that in the mornings I'm prepared for all out war. Take on the big fish, sue the bastards who need suing, fight for every last dime that's mine, buy low sell high, haggle with the insurance company for lower premiums, uphold civil liberties, take the principled stand.

    At night? Be cautious. Don't make noise. Try to work things out amicably. Or just surrender. Run from the fights. Sure, you can search my bag, officer.

    Knowing that I am this way, how can I make any decision at all that I can live with? Just bust a fuck-it, I guess.

  • Alternate theory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:41PM (#14742973)
    Since sleep and dreaming are linked with learning, it could be the other way around. Rather than making a decision in your sleep that you will be satisfied with when away, you could be learning to accept the decision you made while awake (consciencely or unconsciencely). The next day you wake up believing you made a decision in your sleep but really just imprinted your previous decision more firmly.

    That isn't to say you can't figure stuff out while asleep. I'm still glad my brain decided to solve a differential equation while sleeping. I sure wasted enough time working on it awake.

    So who know. Maybe it's a constantly changing mix of solving and acceptance.

  • Not always (or maybe almost never) remember when concious my last night dreams, and sometimes when i do and start to think on it, i think what im looking at in the dream dont match with the "script" of it, what in the sleep i interpret im doing or where i am. Maybe is not the dream by itself what is important, but the morning interpretation of it.

    Be right or not, there are documented examples of people taking right choices or inspirations based on dreams, like i.e. Kekule's dream on benzene structure [wikipedia.org] or o [dreamtree.com]

    • Be right or not, there are documented examples of people taking right choices or inspirations based on dreams, like i.e. Kekule's dream on benzene structure or other famous cases.

      The other famous cases do don't include one of the best I know of, James Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) graphically seeing the base pair interations in a dream. He had been trying to work out the significance of Chargaff's rules in the light of the chemical strucures of the bases composing DNA.

      He was getting n

  • At last (Score:5, Funny)

    by MORB ( 793798 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:44PM (#14743003)
    A scientific proof that "never do today what can be procrastinated until tomorrow" is the right way of doing things.
  • We should look at countries that still do afternoon siestas. I bet we'd find better decision making there than in the work, work, work, work until you die United States.

    I'd love this type of schedule: In the office at say, 7:30AM then out from noon to 5PM. Work 5PM to 8PM. Talk about efficiency.
  • If you've ever tried to come up with a name for a domain (or MMO character), you know how hard it is to find a good one that isn't already taken.

    I have a knack this, as long as I don't try too hard and just let the names percolate up through my subconscious. Last night I thought of the perfect domain name, and this morning I registered it. It's short, easy to remember, and fits what I want to do with it perfectly.

    No, I won't say what it is.

    Let the inevitable gay sex jokes from ACs commence.

  • If the doors of perception are cleansed, things would appear to a man as they truly are - infinite. Go to bed.
  • by General Lee's Peking ( 954826 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:47PM (#14743032)
    I had a psychology teacher who pointed out that the term ``subconscious'' is pretty much a Hollywood popularized word. You're either talking about being conscious or not being conscious, that is, unconscious. The writer of the article seems to agree with her because they don't use the term subconscious. Sorry to nitpick, but the word unconscious communicates the idea more clearly, while the subconscious is vague. Besides, I think it's safe to say that if you're asleep, you're unconscious.
    • I had a psychology teacher who pointed out that the term ``subconscious'' is pretty much a Hollywood popularized word. You're either talking about being conscious or not being conscious, that is, unconscious. The writer of the article seems to agree with her because they don't use the term subconscious. Sorry to nitpick, but the word unconscious communicates the idea more clearly, while the subconscious is vague. Besides, I think it's safe to say that if you're asleep, you're unconscious.

      I'm pretty big in t
  • by mcho ( 878145 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:47PM (#14743038) Homepage Journal
    Chuck Norris doesn't sleep -- he waits.
  • Picard: "Sleep..."
    Beverly: "He's regaining consciousness."
    Picard: "Sleep..."
    Troi: "It's Captain Picard speaking, not Locutus."
    Picard: "Sleep, Data."
    Beverly: [To Picard] "You're exhausted."
    Data: "Yes, Doctor."
    Data: "If I may make a supposition. I do not believe his message was intended to express fatigue, but to suggest a course of action."
    Riker: "Mister Crusher, engag--"
    Data: "Data to Bridge, standby."
    Data: "I am attempting to penetrate the Borg regenerate subcommand path. It is a low priority
  • by CrazyTalk ( 662055 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:49PM (#14743057)
    I would think there are enough geeks here to know that!
  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:55PM (#14743105)
    Haven't people "discovered" this every few years for the past century or so? I'm pretty sure the Surrealists explored this territory.
  • by bomb_number_20 ( 168641 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @12:55PM (#14743108)
    Marketers have known this for years. Marketing departments spend huge amounts of money exploring ways to nudge people into making the 'impulse buy' and trick them into unwise decisions. Grocery stores line their queues with trinkets and small items. Best buy is even worse- forcing people to wind their way through a twisty aisle made of boxes of small, inexpensive items to get to the checkout counter. Once, when shopping for a car, the salesman asked me 'What would it take for you to buy this car today?'. The list goes on... and, it seems to me, we are making worse and less informed decisions as time goes on.

    Trying to find real information on a product is sometimes very difficult. Instead of making better products, companies make a cheaper product and spend a little more on marketing to promote it.

    blah blah blah... im getting offtopic...

    I think it's an issue of context. I don't think it's that you're sleeping on it, but rather you are thinking about the issue outside the context of marketing and environmental pressures. Removing something from context generally allows you to see that thing more clearly.

  • The real problem is that most people do not know how to identify the best solution to a complex problem, where complex problem is defined as having multiple criteria where some are competing against each other.

    One of the best courses that I have completed was a US Army one. It was CAS3 (Combined Arms and Services Staff School). They taught a formal method which deals with identifying possible solutions, identifying screening criteria (which removes solutions that are not viable), identifying evaluation cri
  • Ancient custom? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <gar37bic@gmaTOKYOil.com minus city> on Friday February 17, 2006 @01:14PM (#14743277)
    I recall reading somewhere (back in the day) that in some ancient tribal culture (Bedouin?), when dealing with something important, the parties would first negotiate in a social situation in the evening around the campfire (IIRC smoking something was involved, but maybe that was just me!), and make the decision. But no decision was not final until the next day, when the question was reviewed thoroughly in the "cold light of day".

    In this way, a person could get to know the potential business partner or in-law, learn how they do things when their guard was down at least a bit, and find out whether they can get along as people; and get the basic facts and factors of the decision.

    Then, after sleeping on it and 'digesting' the information, they could use their more analytical daytime-brain to go over what they might not have thought of the night before. In the end, one might say that each side of their brain had the chance to contribute to the decision. (Since the two hemispheres of male brains as a generality are be less well connected than those of females, I would argue that this strategy may be especially useful for men.

    I wish I recalled more detail but it was just a page or so of a book or article, and I don't even recall what the book was about.
  • by RealProgrammer ( 723725 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @01:19PM (#14743321) Homepage Journal
    Well, sort of.

    A complex decision is a whole bunch of trade-offs, profit-and-loss variables. Each variable has a probability associated with it, and they can cascade together. I use a system of "expected value" summations, and it works pretty well.

    For instance, in buying a car there is the price (and the 100% likelihood that you'll have to pay it), a set of features, and a set of unknown costs (maintenance), and a set of emotional value points (prestige, convenience, dependability). Each of the costs has a probability that you'll incur it, and each of the values has a probability that you'll receive it. Some of them are related, and may need to be refactored to make the math work out for you.

    You multiply each of the costs and outcomes (positive and negative) with their value to you (on some scale of your choosing) and their probability of occurring, and sum them all up. That choice gets a score.

    Compare the score from all of the other choices you could make, and your decision is made.

    The nice thing about this system is that by breaking down the fuzzy-factor "value" for each outcome and pairing it with a probability, you see the real cost for each while simultaneously hiding the answer from yourself. Subconciously you will tend to favor the choice you want to make, but be careful that you don't fudge the probabilities.

    As a simple example, consider recreational sky-diving. The value you get from jumping -- a rush, some prestige, and maybe some sex out of it somehow -- compares with a (call it) 99% probability of landing safely and a (call it) 1% probability of landing with a splat.

    For me, I assign a pretty high value to keeping my skin intact. How much would I pay someone not to flatten my skull?

    stay on ground = free + 0 (death from falling) + 0 (fun)
            = 0
    skydiving = -$50 + .01 (death from falling) + .99 (fun)
            = -$50 - 1/100 (very big number) + .99 (small number)
            = (probably something negative, and I have to pay 50 bucks).

    As a side note, you can see that the resultant costs of a decision and the cost to make it happen are just two labels for the same thing. That is, whether something is a cost or benefit is just the sign on the term.

  • by burts ( 893432 )
    There is an old adage in French that goes "La nuit porte conseil", which literally means " The night brings counsel".

  • Her: But do you love me?
    Meat Loaf: Baby, baby let me sleep on it and I'll tell you in the morning.

    He should have waited until morning to decide about home plate as well as his profession of undying love, but....
    Unfortunately, as the song plays out, he doesn't sleep on it and regrets his decision almost immediately :-(
  • ...and she should've waited for an answer in the morning.
  • That's why I sleep at my desk.
  • by The Beezer ( 573688 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:27PM (#14743889) Journal
    Anyone who has heard audio from his lectures or read his books has heard him talking about the difference between the spotlight (conscious attention) and the floodlight (unconscious thought). He often said that most people could not handle more than 3 variables at the same time without using a pencil, and most real-life decisions involve considerably more variables than that. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that for most people a decision made without directly using conscious thought would be superior to one "thought through". The anecdotes /.ers have related above only help reinforce this.
  • So true. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Brownstar ( 139242 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:37PM (#14743955)
    I can't count the number of times that it wasn't until I woke up that I realized sleeping with the girl I thought was hot at the bar wasn't quite as hot as I originally thought.
  • by hyfe ( 641811 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @02:44PM (#14744011)
    .. this guy [thanhniennews.com] must be quite stupid then
  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @03:52PM (#14744560) Journal
    I forget which book i was reading, probably "The Tao of Personal Leadership" which maintained that the proper way to accomplish any weighty task is to familiarize yourself with it. Dig in deep. Then do nothing. At a later time, reproach it and the task will go far more smoothly. Once I read that I realized that in the past several years of profesional development, I had done just that. I don't just sit down and code as if I were running a marathon. I think about it all, then I "mull it over". This mulling really involves little. Just a little directed consciousness and everything falls into place without deliverate thought. As the years slip under my belt, I do less and less directed thinking and the results are always better than the last.

    This is the way of the Tao.
  • by abertoll ( 460221 ) on Friday February 17, 2006 @05:16PM (#14745200) Homepage Journal

    I've been trying to explain that I think better when I'm sleeping to my boss for ages now. Finally I have proof!

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)