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Decision Fatigue: I’m Sick Of it

I read an interesting article on the New York Times just now, after one of my students enlightened the cynic in me and pointed me to look closer at the type of article that usually gets me riled up, a.k.a. some sort of self-help “crap”.

Cutting to the short and juicy of it, make any major decisions in the morning and avoid making them at night, either when tired or while drunk; they are likely to be the wrong one otherwise. Seems simple enough, right? Only this time it’s really well-written and researched. It might also explain why you should never challenge your girlfriend about what’s for dinner tonight, particularly if its after 6pm and she’s had a hard day. 

An extract below: 

Three men doing time in Israeli prisons recently appeared before a parole board consisting of a judge, a criminologist and a social worker. The three prisoners had completed at least two-thirds of their sentences, but the parole board granted freedom to only one of them. Guess which one:

Case 1 (heard at 8:50 a.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.

Case 2 (heard at 3:10 p.m.): A Jewish Israeli serving a 16-month sentence for assault.

Case 3 (heard at 4:25 p.m.): An Arab Israeli serving a 30-month sentence for fraud.

There was a pattern to the parole board’s decisions, but it wasn’t related to the men’s ethnic backgrounds, crimes or sentences. It was all about timing, as researchers discovered by analyzing more than 1,100 decisions over the course of a year. Judges, who would hear the prisoners’ appeals and then get advice from the other members of the board, approved parole in about a third of the cases, but the probability of being paroled fluctuated wildly throughout the day.

Prisoners who appeared early in the morning received parole about 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day were paroled less than 10 percent of the time.

The odds favored the prisoner who appeared at 8:50 a.m. — and he did in fact receive parole. But even though the other Arab Israeli prisoner was serving the same sentence for the same crime — fraud — the odds were against him when he appeared (on a different day) at 4:25 in the afternoon. He was denied parole, as was the Jewish Israeli prisoner at 3:10 p.m, whose sentence was shorter than that of the man who was released. They were just asking for parole at the wrong time of day.

Read more at the New York Times

Filed under Decision Fatigue I'm Sick of it New York Times Do you suffer from decision fatigue John Tierney

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Do something. Anything. Dance. Talk. Build. Network. Play. Help. Create. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re doing it. Sitting around and complaining is not an acceptable form of ‘something,’ in case you were wondering. (Forbes)

Do something. Anything. 
Dance. Talk. Build. Network. Play. Help. Create. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re doing it. Sitting around and complaining is not an acceptable form of ‘something,’ in case you were wondering. (Forbes)

Filed under how to be more interesting

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FT: The Year Of Reading Differently

Edward Stourton over at the FT Weekend has written a great article on what happens when a serious book-lover gets given an ebook reader and is told to go and “explore” it. I’m much of the same mold: I prefer the musty smell of creaking bookshelves; the added heft to a shoulder bag, the silent curses I make at fellow subway passengers as they crowd into my book “space” while I’m trying to read.

A Kindle this Christmas or next? Not for me. 

Towards the end of last year it became apparent that the Stourton household was heading for a book crisis. My wife and I both brought substantial collections into our marriage. I get a steady stream of review copies and manuscripts from friends and acquaintances hoping for endorsements. She makes factual television programmes and is often sent books by aspiring producers and presenters. I am incontinent when the urge to buy a new hardback novel comes upon me, and she reads incredibly quickly. All these factors had conspired to fill our shelves. The books had become Triffid-like, taking over our home and lives. Something had to be done.

So, almost a year ago, in this paper, I took these vows: “My resolution is that for 12 months I shall buy no new books and shall limit my leisure reading to books already in my library. There are bound to be professional reasons for bending the rule from time to time. But if I devote myself to our existing collection I might learn something about myself and my family … I shall catch up with some of the friends’ books which have been neglected, and I shall attack the many review copies that still have a marker stuck somewhere in the first couple of chapters …

I also – partly at the instigation of the editors at the FT, and very much through gritted teeth – promised to try an e-reader. It might, we thought, be one solution to the overstuffed shelves. And I said I would report back on my reading habits, both paper-based and electronic.

Read more at the FT.com

Filed under Books FT