Ruminating today about decision-making. What happens in our brain that sways us to do one thing over another? If you have two choices to make for places to go on a Friday night, it’s almost always a pretty simple decision. But what’s at work inside our heads when we’re walking down the street and there’s a person coming at us from the opposite direction? How does the decision get made to stay left or right? Is it a conscious decision? It’s made in a matter of milli-seconds in that example, but there’s got to be some kind of internal process that decides it. This morning, this process fascinates me.
My example about walking down the street is an interesting one – I read somewhere that the decision-making process in that scenario actually comes from hundreds of years ago. What I read was that it was an unwritten law that men would always walk furthest from the street (in affect, staying to the right) and that women would stay closer to the street (left) because there were bound to be more accidents or mishaps closer to the street. Since men were considered more important than women in those times, that’s the way it worked. It became such standard practice, such a part of the fiber of daily life, that eventually it just become second-hand – an unconscious decision – and as generations passed, it just became hard-wired to the point where it was automatic.
Of course, our society today and its views on women has changed significantly. But next time you’re walking down the street, pay some attention to people who are walking in the opposite direction from each other and how they interact and what split-second decision they make, particularly men and women. Also try to pay attention to yourself as you walk down the street.
Decision-making is really an interesting subject. For example, what made me choose a heavy ceramic monkey to hold my business cards at work?